Bank of Nova Scotia (TSX:BNS)(NYSE:BNS) is often overlooked in favour of its larger peers, but investors with a long-term perspective should think twice about ignoring Canada’s most international bank.
Here are the reasons why I think Bank of Nova Scotia deserves to be on your watch list.
1. International operations
Bank of Nova Scotia operates in more than 50 countries, with its core international focus placed on Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Peru.
Most investors don’t immediately see huge banking opportunities in this group, but these four countries represent the backbone of the Pacific Alliance, a free-trade bloc created in recent years to promote the movement of products and workers among member countries.
As businesses expand across these markets, they need access to a wide variety of additional financial services. Bank of Nova Scotia is one of the places that businesses are turning to for help because it has a strong footprint in every country.
How big is this market?
Combined, the four countries have a population of more than 200 million people. Commercial growth is one area of focus, but a growing middle class also presents opportunities to tap into the demand for mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and investment products.
In fact, the company is starting to put up some interesting numbers. In its Q1 2015 earnings statement, Bank of Nova Scotia said its Latin American operations achieved year-over-year commercial loan growth of 11%. Retail loans increased by 13%.
2. Restructuring initiative
High expenses in the international operations have eaten into margins, but the bank is making progress in its efforts to improve efficiency.
Last November Bank of Nova Scotia embarked on a large restructuring process. The company took a one-time charge of $451 million and said it would eliminate 1,500 positions. Once all the changes are complete, investors should see annual expense reductions of about $120 million.
3. Dividend growth
Bank of Nova Scotia recently increased its quarterly dividend by two cents. The annualized payout of $2.72 per share yields about 4.2%. The distribution has increased eight times in the past five years and the positive trend should continue.
Should you buy?
The shares trade at an attractive 10.8 times forward earnings and 1.7 times book value. As Bank of Nova Scotia starts to reap the benefits of the restructuring program, the market should become more positive on the stock.
Canadian banks have done well in the domestic market, but long-term growth requires a diversified income stream. If you like the story in Latin America, Bank of Nova Scotia is worth considering for your next bank pick.
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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.
Fool contributor Andrew Walker has no position in any stocks mentioned.