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National Bank eyes stock split, opposes TMX deal

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National Bank of Canada (NA-T), whose shares have risen 26 percent in the past year and hit a record high Wednesday, will consider splitting its stock, the company's chief executive said.
   
"We want to make sure our share price remains affordable... so we'll be examining it very closely," CEO Louis Vachon said at the company's annual meeting in response to a shareholder question.
   
Montreal-based National, Canada's No. 6 lender, became the first large Canadian bank to resume dividend hikes following the financial crisis when it raised its payout by 6.5 percent in November.
   
National is one of two Canadian banks to come out firmly against the London Stock Exchange's proposed $3.0 billion takeover of Toronto Stock Exchange owner TMX Group (X-T).
   
Speaking at the meeting, Vachon criticized the price offered for TMX, said LSE is a relatively weak player in European markets, and suggested Canada could lose control of its natural resources if the deal goes through.
   
"We are strongly against this transaction," he said.
   
"I think we have much more to lose than to gain by associating ourselves and risking the loss of certain elements of control in this transaction."
   
National owns about 1.3 percent of TMX Group, or just under 2 percent, he said, adding that the bank has been making representations before different levels of government.
   
The takeover must be approved by regulators in at least four provinces—including Quebec—as well as by the federal government. If the deal closes, the combined entity would be 55-percent owned by LSE shareholders.
   
Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canada's No. 2 lender, has also opposed the transaction.
   
Vachon said the deal also raises regulatory uncertainty by stripping Canada of ownership of the clearing house that manages risk for TMX's Montreal Exchange derivatives market.
   
Canadian Derivatives Clearing Corporation (CDCC), a wholly-owned TMX subsidiary, is the central clearing counterparty for derivative products in Canada.
   
"We believe that to be Canadian-owned and Canadian regulated is better than simply being (Canadian) regulated," he said.
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