TD Bank has unveiled a $5-billion takeover of a majority stake in Banknorth of New England, while reporting "solid, broad-based results" with a 17 per cent rise in quarterly earnings and a dividend increase. The bank said Thursday that its acquisition of 51 per cent of Banknorth Group Inc., valued at $3.8 billion US, provides "an expanding beachhead in the northeastern United States" while enhancing its overall retail banking business and complementing its TD Waterhouse U.S. wealth-management operation. "The simple fact is that Banknorth is a well-run community-based bank that has an excellent management team," Ed Clark, TD Bank president and CEO, told a conference call with congratulatory analysts. He said the agreement allows TD to increase its ownership to two-thirds and beyond over time. TD's American expansion comes as Canada's big banks are blocked from merging with each other by the lack of a clear federal policy. "I've always said that we're not running the bank based on what may or may not be happening in Canada with regard to bank mergers," Clark said. He added that if mergers are allowed, TD will be at the table and Banknorth provides "the crispest and best U.S. strategy" and positions the bank more strongly. "This business gives us optionality we didn't have before," he said, with sufficient scale to be "a sustainable player" in the United States, informs Canada. According to Bloomberg, canadian stocks fell, led by Toronto- Dominion Bank, after the nation's second-biggest lender said it would buy a controlling stake in Banknorth Group Inc. for $3.8 billion in cash and stock. Bombardier Inc. had the biggest drop in the benchmark index. Analysts trimmed the stock's price target a day after the world's No. 3 maker of commercial airplanes reported a smaller-than- expected profit. The Standard & Poor's/TSX Composite Index lost 40.03, or 0.5 percent, to 8331.34, for its first decline in three days. The measure advanced as much as 8.3 percent this year, setting a high on April 12. Since then, it has dropped 6.4 percent. ``There's a fear that economic growth will slow down,'' said Michael Sprung, who helps manage the equivalent of $9.92 billion for YMG Capital Management Inc. in Toronto. ``People want to see more evidence of what the economy will look like next year.'' The U.S. Commerce Department tomorrow may lower its second- quarter economic growth figure because higher-priced oil imports widened a trade deficit, according to economists. The U.S. economy may have grown at a 2.7 percent annual rate between April and June, according to the median of 67 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. The government on July 30estimated 3 percent growth. Toronto-Dominion fell 97 cents to C$43.58, accounting for 16 percent of the benchmark index's drop. The bank agreed to buy a 51 percent stake in Portland, Maine-based Banknorth for $3.8 billion in cash and stock. The shares dropped 3.2 percent yesterday after the bank said it was negotiating with Banknorth. Toronto-Dominion has assets of about $29 billion and about 360 branches, mostly in New England and New York, according to its Web site. Bombardier slumped 23 cents, or 7.9 percent, to C$2.70. At least nine analysts cut their expectations for the stock's price a year from now, including UBS's Peter Rozenberg. In a note to clients, Rozenberg wrote that he expects earnings of 10 U.S. cents a share next year, lower than an earlier forecast of 18 cents. The United States provides Toronto-Dominion, like all of Canada's major banks, with a relatively easy opportunity for growth. In 1998, the Canadian government closed the door on domestic bank mergers, including a proposal that would have combined Toronto-Dominion with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Canada's banks are also holding substantial capital reserves well beyond the amounts required by regulators, adding to pressure to expand. Toronto-Dominion alone is estimated to have a capital surplus of 2 billion to 2.5 billion Canadian dollars. But Canadian banks that have expanded to the United States have not always found success. Losses in the United States lowered the Royal Bank of Canada's second-quarter retail banking profit to 345 million Canadian dollars from 358 million Canadian dollars ($274 million) despite a strong performance in its home market. Toronto-Dominion offers a limited amount of banking in the United States to customers of its discount brokerage arm, TD Waterhouse, through the TD Waterhouse Bank. It has held unsuccessful talks about selling TD Waterhouse to both the E*Trade Financial Corporation and the Charles Schwab Corporation. Since 2002, Banknorth has been on its own expansion program. Its 350 branches, which operate under four different brands, are in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, reports NYTimes.
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