Royal Bank of Canada hiked its dividend as it reported a first-quarter profit of $3 billion, which was relatively flat compared with a year ago but still beat expectations.
The Toronto-based lender increased its quarterly payment to common shareholders by three cents to 94 cents per share.
The dividend increase comes as the lender has seen strong results across its divisions for the quarter ended Jan. 31, but also recorded a write-down due to U.S. corporate tax cuts.
“Strong client activity and volume growth across most businesses drove our first quarter earnings of $3 billion, while we absorbed the write-down related to the U.S. Tax Reform,” said chief executive Dave McKay in a statement.
The bank’s profit for the three-month period ended Jan. 31 amounted to $2.01 per diluted share, compared with $3 billion or $1.97 per diluted share during the same period a year earlier when it had more shares outstanding.
The results in the most recent quarter included a $178-million write-down primarily related to deferred tax assets due to U.S. corporate tax cuts.
After adjustments, RBC—which is Canada’s biggest lender by market capitalization—earned $2.05 per diluted share, beating the $1.99 expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.
The bank’s personal and commercial banking arm reported net income of $1.52 billion, down $71 million or 4% from the same period a year ago. However, the year-ago results included a gain related to the $212-million sale of the U.S. operations of Moneris.
Stripping out that one-time increase, RBC’s personal and commercial banking division saw net income increase by $141 million or 10% in the latest quarter.
RBC’s Canadian residential mortgage portfolio was $258 billion in the latest quarter, up 5.7% from $244 billion in the same quarter a year ago. For comparison, RBC saw a 4.7% increase in mortgage growth in the first quarter of 2017, up from $233 billion in the first quarter of 2016.
The banks’ mortgage portfolios are being watched for any impact from new stricter underwriting rules for uninsured mortgages introduced on Jan. 1. The revised rules require would-be homebuyers with a 20% down payment or larger to prove they can continue to service their mortgage payments if interest rates rise, something the banks have signalled could act as a headwind to the business.
Meanwhile, some of RBC’s other divisions have begun to see the benefits of U.S. tax reform, which include a corporate tax rate cut from 35% to 21%.
RBC’s wealth management division reported a 39% increase in net income to $597 million from $167 million in the same quarter one year ago. The bank said this increase reflected higher average fee-based assets, an increase in net interest income, and a lower effective tax rate reflecting benefits from U.S. tax reform.
RBC’s capital markets division saw a 13% jump year-on-year in net income to $748 million, primarily due to a lower effective tax rate including the benefits from U.S. tax changes and higher results in corporate and investment banking and global markets.
Its insurance arm saw net income decrease 5% to $127 million, while investor and treasury services saw a 2% increase in net income to $219 million.
The bank’s common equity tier 1 ratio (CET1), a key measure of financial health, was 11%, up 10 basis points from the previous quarter, but flat compared with a year ago.
The bank’s provisions for credit losses, or money set aside for bad loans, increased 13% in the latest quarter to $334 million, compared with $294 million a year earlier. However, the quarter was the first to reflect a new accounting standard, which puts a greater emphasis on a banks’ expected losses over the life of the loan. That, in turn, introduces more volatility to the measure.