TORONTO - TD Bank Group's profit slipped in the fourth quarter compared with a year ago as it recorded restructuring charges and increased provisions for credit losses compared with last year.

As with most of its peers during this year's fourth-quarter earnings season, TD's message was that lower interest rates and more normal credit loss provisions created a more difficult environment but that the organization is adjusting.

"We are accelerating ongoing efforts to modernize our operations and improve our efficiency," TD chief executive Bharat Masrani told analysts during an afternoon conference call Thursday.

That resulted in a total of about $114 million of restructuring charges after taxes in the quarter, or about six cents per share, which Masrani said were booked across TD's business segments.

Provisions for credit losses increased to $891 million in the quarter, from $670 million a year ago.

TD bank said that it earned $2.86 billion or $1.54 per share in the quarter ending Oct. 31, down three per cent from $2.96 billion or $1.58 per share a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis for the quarter, TD says it had a net income available to shareholders of $2.88 billion, or $1.59 per diluted share, down from $3 billion, or $1.63 per share last year.

Revenue was $10.34 billion, up from $10.14 billion a year ago.

Analysts had expected $1.74 per share of adjusted earnings, on revenue of $9.85 billion, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Masrani said "the on-going normalization of provisions for credit losses clearly weighed on earnings growth this quarter and for the year as a whole."

But Masrani said TD has been taking steps throughout the year to "position itself for future success" by adding front-line client advisers with enhanced training and by putting in place new technologies.

Riaz Ahmed, TD's chief financial officer, said that TD has added the equivalent of nearly 3,500 full-time jobs in front-line, technology and corporate functions over the year.

"I think you should look at (the restructurings announced Thursday) more as an optimization exercise within the context of a growing bank and not necessarily driven to create additional productivity."

The bank says Canadian and U.S. retail banking saw earnings rise, while income from wholesale banking was down $126 million, or 44 per cent, from a year earlier on impacts of derivative valuation charges connected to upgrades to the valuation system and related methodologies.

Earnings from the company's stake in brokerage TD Ameritrade were US$219 million, up 25 per cent from last year.

But Masrani said TD and TD Ameritrade will feel the effect of the elimination of online trading commissions by U.S. discount brokerages.

TD announced on Nov. 25 that it would exchange its 43 per cent stake in TD Ameritrade for a 13.4 per cent stake in Charles Schwab Corp. as part of Schwab's proposed US$26 billion takeover of the brokerage.

Looking ahead, Masrani said the Ameritrade deal would give TD more flexibility to pursue other opportunities, mentioning the U.S. Southeast as an interesting possibility.

"I'm sure with the type of environment we are seeing, and what we are calling for — which is challenging — that may provide us with opportunities moreso than previously," Masrani said.

"We will keenly watch this space and should anything compelling present itself, we'll be looking at it seriously."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2019.

Companies in this story: (TSX:TD)

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