Is The Laurentian Bank of Canada an Underrated Banking Stock Worth a Closer Look?

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Written By Keziah Monique Gayo

Laurentian Bank (LB’s) recent financial disclosure for the first quarter, ending January 31, 2024, has provided an insightful look into the bank’s current standing and future prospects.

While the results aligned with consensus expectations, with adjusted earnings per share hitting 91 cents, including a 4-cent adjustment related to a mainframe outage, several aspects warrant a closer examination for potential investors.

Financial Performance and Strategic Movements

LB’s CET1 ratio, a key measure of financial health for banks, saw an increase to 10.2%, crossing the crucial 10% mark, indicating strong capital retention and a strategic reduction in loan balances.

The bank witnessed a diversified reduction across loan categories, with commercial loans dropping by 3% quarter-over-quarter and personal loans declining at double that rate.

Credit: DepositPhotos

Despite these reductions, an increase in residential mortgage loans helped mitigate the overall decrease in total loans, which only saw a marginal decline of 1%.

An area of concern noted in the quarter was a decrease in deposits, potentially attributable to the aftermath of the mainframe outage.

However, LB articulated this decline as a part of a calculated strategy to let deposits naturally decrease in alignment with the bank’s loan volume adjustments and liquidity stance.

This strategic deposit management aims to enhance the bank’s net interest margin (NIM) and profitability focus.

Operational Efficiency and Challenges Ahead

Despite operational improvements, LB has signaled an expected uptick in corporate-side expenses as it continues to refine its strategic direction and asset management.

This anticipated increase in expenses has led to a more cautious outlook for the fiscal year, with projections suggesting an efficiency ratio potentially reaching the 73% range—a figure that contrasts with the more favorable ratios of its peers.

LB’s cautious approach to mortgage lending, characterized by conservative standards and shorter amortization periods, distinguishes its operational model.

While mitigating risk, this conservative stance may also limit revenue potential from the mortgage sector, as evidenced by the smaller portion of loans amortized over 25-29 years compared to industry averages.

Market Outlook and Investment Consideration

The bank’s forward-looking statements, particularly regarding rebalancing profit and growth, indicate a strategic shift towards reinvesting in operational activities for revenue enhancement.

However, this strategy, coupled with the challenges of managing new business ventures like Shopline and addressing increased operational expenses, presents a nuanced outlook for LB.

Given these dynamics, a neutral stance on LB’s stock seems prudent. While the bank’s tangible book value trading at a significant discount highlights potential undervaluation, the forecasted increase in expenses and the strategic adjustments required for future profitability necessitate a cautious approach.

Preferred Shares and Market Reaction

Interestingly, LB’s preferred shares have outperformed expectations, supported by favorable market conditions and strategic corporate actions.

Credit: DepositPhotos

The upcoming reset of preferred share yields presents an attractive opportunity for yield-focused investors, reflecting the bank’s underlying value despite common stock performance challenges.

Final Thoughts

LB’s fiscal first quarter paints a picture of a bank in transition, strategically navigating operational efficiencies, capital management, and market positioning.

While the bank’s solid capital ratios and strategic deposit management underscore a foundation of financial health, upcoming challenges related to operational expenses and strategic business adjustments highlight the need for careful investor consideration.


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