December 5, 2008 / 12:51 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 3-RBC profit drops 15 pct on provisions, writedowns

* Q4 net income C$1.12 bln vs C$1.32 bln

* Q4 EPS C$0.81 vs C$1.01

* Revenue C$5.07 bln vs C$5.62 bln

* Royal Bank shares down 1.7 pct at C$36.55 (Adds details on segment results, analysts’ comments, share price)

By Lynne Olver

TORONTO, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Canada’s (RY.TO) quarterly profit fell 15 percent on higher loan loss provisions and previously announced securities losses, and analysts said the results show signs that Canadian loan quality may be deteriorating more quickly than expected.

RBC, which warned of a 15 percent profit decline on Nov. 24, said on Friday that net income was C$1.12 billion ($868.3 million), or 81 Canadian cents a share, in its fourth quarter, ended on Oct. 31.

That was down from C$1.32 billion, or C$1.01 a share, a year earlier, when the bank had a gain related to a restructuring of Visa Inc (V.N).

RBC shares were down 1.7 percent at C$36.55 on the Toronto Stock Exchange by early afternoon.

Profit at RBC, Canada’s largest bank, suffered from charges for securities losses and impairments, but were helped by a gain on the fair value of the bank’s debt and by the benefit of a lower provision for Enron-related litigation.

At Royal’s Canadian banking unit, net income fell 15 percent to C$676 million in the quarter. But excluding the year-earlier Visa gain and a separate charge, Canadian profit rose 11 percent.

RBC reported higher loss rates in its Canadian credit card portfolio, a day after rival Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) said it experienced the same thing. Both banks are big Visa card issuers.

While analysts had fully expected worsening loan performance in the RBC’s United States business because of the economic backdrop, similar trends are starting to show up in Canada.

“I guess we should stop assuming that things are absolutely perfect in Canada, you can see some deterioration in unsecured lending,” said Mario Mendonca, an analyst at Genuity Capital.

“Royal has had remarkably strong personal loan growth and credit card growth, they’ve taken so much market share from CIBC in the last little while,” Mendonca said. “What was such a positive thing now becomes a negative thing.”

Economic pressures are mounting in Canada, with fresh data showing that Canadian employers shed 70,600 jobs in November, the most in any month since June 1982. The unemployment rate moved up slightly to 6.3 percent.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Andre-Philippe Hardy said in a research note that RBC’s gross impaired loans, loan formations and loan losses continue to trend higher.

This is not unique to RBC, Hardy said, but “it indicates that the credit deterioration we were expecting to be material in 2009 is happening quicker than we had anticipated.”

RBC boosted its provision for credit losses to C$619 million from C$263 million a year earlier.

Its Tier 1 capital ratio, a measure that investors are closely watching these days, slipped to 9.0 percent from 9.4 percent. The bank said its objective is to keep the Tier 1 ratio above 8.5 percent.

“In terms of Canadian banks, we are seeing modest declines in Tier 1 ratios in the fiscal fourth quarter, although they remain very solid, generally above the 9 percent level,” Scotia Capital analyst Kevin Choquette said in a research note this week.

$1=$1.29 Canadian Additional reporting by Scott Anderson; editing by Peter Galloway

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