Toronto-Dominion Bank's fourth quarter earnings climbed higher, but fell short of analyst estimates and signalled a warning about future growth potential.
TD's profit included higher earnings in personal and commercial banking, and a very strong bottom line in wealth management, but a disappointing profit in wholesale banking.
The bank incurred a $129-million restructuring charge related to "retail branch and real estate optimization initiatives," something TD alluded to during the third quarter.
TD's earnings amounted to $1.62-billion, or $1.69 per share, slightly higher than the $1.60-billion, or $1.67 per share, reported a year earlier. TD was aided by a sizable reduction of its loan loss provisions.
After stripping out one-time items, TD made $1.82-billion, or $1.90 a share, shy of analysts' expectations of $1.99 a share.
TD also announced a two-for-one stock split, effectively halving TD's stock price, which is nearing $100 and closed at $95.75 on Wednesday. Current shareholders will receive an extra share for every one they currently own.
Canadian personal and commercial banking earnings jumped to $914-million, a sharp rise from the $806-million in the fourth quarter of 2012. However, the unit's revenue only grew 3 per cent, and the bank acknowledged lending growth is slowing, rising just 3 per cent over the previous year.
This arm was also aided by lower loan loss provisions, which dropped $66-million, or 23 per cent.
Wholesale banking earnings were disappointing. While it can be hard to compare them to the fourth quarter of 2012 because of large securities gains last year, the $122-million profit is still the lowest this year. Investment banking suffered during the fourth quarter, but TD made more money from trading.
Wealth management and insurance was a bright spot for the bank. Following the acquisition of Epoch Investment Partners, wealth and insurance earnings hit $405-million, 38 per cent higher than the same period of 2012. This unit also benefited from better profits at TD Ameritrade.
U.S. personal and commercial banking profits continue to improve, climbing to $369-million, up 17 per cent from the same period in 2012. Most of this earnings growth came from acquiring Target Corp.'s credit card portfolio and improving loan and deposit volumes.
Of all the bank chiefs, TD CEO Ed Clark has been the most vocal about the prospects for an earnings slowdown.
Even though TD announced a record bottom line for its personal and commercial banking arm last quarter, which accounted for 63 per cent of its total profit, management was still cautious about the future.
"We still see 2014 as a tough revenue year," Mr. Clark said on a conference call. The caution prompted the bank to crack down on expenses and in the coming year TD will assess whether to close some bank branches.
TD announced a one cent dividend hike to 86 cents quarterly. The move comes after bumping the dividend by four cents in the third quarter.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the level of TD's staff reductions.