TORONTO (Reuters) - Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) expects “somewhat elevated” loan losses over the next three to four quarters due to the coronavirus outbreak, but will maintain dividends with its ample capital, its chief executive told shareholders on Tuesday.
The bank has three times as much common equity tier 1 capital as it did during the financial crisis, and has “lots of capital to absorb more losses,” CEO Brian Porter said at the lender’s online annual general meeting.
“We’re certainly committed to paying our dividend.”
With about half of Scotiabank’s shareholder base made up of individuals relying on dividends for income, the bank will maintain the payouts, Porter said, in contrast to European counterparts who have scrapped them.
Canadian banks are better able to maintain dividends due to higher returns and margins, lower payout ratios and stronger capital positions than European and U.S. counterparts, he said.
Losses will rise as defaults increase at small and medium-sized businesses due to the coronavirus outbreak, Porter added.
With 3.67 million Canadians applying for all types of emergency unemployment assistance since March 16, banks have offered aid including payment deferrals on various loans and lower credit card rates to those affected.
Scotiabank has deferred payments on about C$25 billion of loans, with mortgages accounting for the biggest share, Porter said.
This means the typical Canadian homeowner need not make about C$10,000 of mortgage payments over the next six months, he said, although the debt will still need to be repaid.
Scotiabank shares rose 2.6% in Toronto, compared with a 1.9% gain in the Toronto stock benchmark .GSPTSE.
Reporting by Nichola Saminather in Toronto; Additional reporting by Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Editing by Richard Chang