There may be little separating the United States and Canada in some respects, but you don't hear a lot of talk about Canadian equities on this side of the border. Aside from occasional mentions of companies like Canadian National
Let's rectify that a bit by taking a look at Bank of Montreal
Bank of Montreal isn't an especially large bank. It's smaller than others like Bank of Nova Scotia
There also seems to be some give and take in the operations of this bank. It has never had an especially robust return on assets and its return on equity is below its Canadian peers, but it does offer an above-average yield, and it has traditionally reported lower credit losses over the cycle. So perhaps it's fair to call it a conservatively run bank with some room for improvement.
Perhaps in keeping with that assessment, there was good and bad news in this most recent quarterly report. Earnings growth of 21% (excluding items) was certainly good, but the return on equity declined a bit, and the return on assets wasn't great. Elsewhere, credit quality still seems very good, but the net interest margin is low, and deposit growth is pretty light. It's also worth noting that investment banking was a strong contributor to income growth this quarter, with private client services also chipping in quite a bit.
It's equally interesting that the company hiked its dividend by roughly 17% this quarter. The significance of that move is open for debate, though. You could say that the company realizes the limitations of its growth and simply wants to pass along more capital to shareholders. It could also perhaps be an effort to move the stock a little higher and make it more appealing as a currency in acquisitions.
I come away from Bank of Montreal thinking that's it's pretty much fairly valued. It's not a bad income-oriented play on Canada in general, and there's still the capacity to do better in my view. All the same, I wouldn't be in any rush to chase it today.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).