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Scotiabank wants to increase its profile in countries such as Mexico and Peru

TORONTO - The Bank of Nova Scotia says it's seeing some good growth from its international operations — particularly in Asia — as it continues to work on increasing its presence in Central and South America.

"To drive the greatest growth, we remain focused on building scale in our highest priority markets of Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Chile," Scotiabank president and CEO Brian Porter told analysts during a conference call Tuesday.

Porter said the bank will continue to try to streamline operations and improve efficiencies as it deals with weaker performance in the Caribbean and parts of Central America due to a "challenging economic environment that still persists."

Touted as Canada's most international lender, Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) has a presence in more than 55 countries.

Porter's comments came as the bank reported increased profits in the latest quarter, boosted by its wealth management and insurance businesses and the sale of its stake in money manager CI Financial Corp.

The bank also increased its quarterly dividend by two cents to 66 cents per share.

Scotiabank earned a profit of $2.35 billion, or $1.85 per diluted share, for the quarter ended July 31. That compared with a profit of $1.75 billion, or $1.36, in the same period a year earlier.

Scotiabank announced a deal in May to sell more than two-thirds of its interest in CI Financial (TSX:CIX). The sale boosted the bank's quarterly results with after-tax gain of $555 million, or 45 cents per share.

Excluding the deal and other one-time items, the bank's adjusted net income was $1.79 billion, up eight per cent from $1.65 billion on adjusted earnings per diluted share of $1.40. Analysts had expected adjusted earnings per share of $1.41.

Return on equity was 20.6 per cent, compared with 17.2 per cent at the same time last year. Revenues were $6.48 billion compared with $5.51 billion.

However, Scotiabank said its international banking arm saw profits drop 16 per cent to $452 million, as it had solid earnings growth from Latin America and Asia, but had to deal with weakness from its operations in the Caribbean and Central America and lower loan balances.

Barclays analyst John Aiken said in a note the international division delivered disappointing results, but the outlook still remains positive for the bank.

"We do not believe that one weaker quarter really puts Scotia's growth outlook into question," he wrote.

Its global wealth management and insurance arm earned $846 million, helped by the CI Financial deal and continued favourable conditions from the markets. Without the CI transaction, net income in the division grew by six per cent.

Profits from its personal and commercial banking in Canada division rose three per cent to $565 million, boosted by a hike in loans, deposits and higher fees and commissions. It also saw higher increases in loan losses, but said that was mainly due to an increase business volume.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Darko Mihelic said he had expected Scotiabank's "usually strong cost control culture" to help rein in some of its quarter-over-quarter expenses growth.

"Overall, we view BNS's earnings results as disappointing as they fell short of our expectations in all segments other than wholesale banking and generally the 'other' segment helped to offset some of the weakness in the 'core' segments," Mihelic wrote in a note.

Scotiabank's shares closed down $1.74 or 2.35 per cent at $72.45 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Follow @LindaNguyenTO on Twitter.

The Canadian Press

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