* Q1 EPS C$1.97 vs forecast C$1.77
* Dividend up 5 percent to C$0.87
* CEO says focus in United States on organic growth (Adds CEO comment from conference call)
TORONTO, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Canada on Friday reported quarterly earnings of more than C$3 billion ($2.3 billion) for the first time, beating market forecasts, and benefiting from a strong performance at all its businesses.
Canada’s biggest bank said on Friday net income for the first quarter to Jan. 31 rose by 24 percent to C$3.03 billion.
Earnings per share increased to C$1.97 from C$1.58 a year earlier, exceeding analysts’ forecasts of C$1.77, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Shares in RBC, which has a substantial business in the United States, have risen by nearly 20 percent since Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president in November.
The stock has benefited from expectations the new administration will introduce softer banking regulations and a lower corporate tax rate and that pro-growth policies will lead to higher interest rates.
Chief Executive Dave McKay said that the bank’s U.S. strategy is focused on organic growth following its $5 billion acquisition of Los Angeles-based City National in 2015.
“Our large focus in the United States right now is executing organic growth within City National and organic growth within the capital markets franchise. We continue to see opportunities to deploy capital organically,” he said on a conference call.
McKay added that rising valuations for U.S. banks following Trump’s election make it harder to do deals in the current environment.
“You look at the prices of U.S. banks and the ability to generate synergies and return on capital remains challenging at best so we’re obviously very conscious of shareholder return as we look at tuck-in acquisitions for City National,” he said.
Net income at the bank’s personal and commercial business rose by 23 percent to C$1.59 billion. The capital markets division reported a 16 percent increase to C$662 million.
RBC also cheered investors with a 5 percent increase in its quarterly dividend, to 87 Canadian cents per share.
Smaller rival Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce reported higher-than-expected earnings on Thursday, but uncertainty over a planned U.S. acquisition overshadowed its performance.
At current share prices, RBC is North America’s fifth most-valued bank, with a market capitalization of C$147 billion.
$1 = 1.3099 Canadian dollars Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Andrea Ricci