Banks from Citigroup Inc. (C) in the U.S. to BNP Paribas SA (BNP) in France are racing to shed assets and raise money ahead of new global capital rules that start taking effect in 2015. For Canadian lenders, these moves have created the opportunity to go on a shopping spree.
Canada’s six largest banks have spent $37.8 billion since 2008 on about 100 acquisitions at home and abroad, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its June issue.
“We and our Canadian competitors are only able to do that because we have some flexibility as a result of our strength,” says Gerald McCaughey, chief executive officer of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, which bought JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s minority stake in asset management firm American Century Investments last year. “Over the longer term, this should actually help to maintain the strength of the Canadian banking system and its competitiveness.”
CIBC (CM) was No. 3 in Bloomberg Markets’ second annual ranking of the world’s strongest banks, followed by three of its Canadian rivals: Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) (No. 4), National Bank of Canada (NA) (No. 5) and Royal Bank of Canada (No. 6), the country’s largest lender. Bank of Nova Scotia ranked 18th, and Bank of Montreal was 22nd.
OCBC Is No. 1
Singapore’s Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. retained the title of the world’s strongest bank for the second year, followed byBOC Hong Kong Holdings Ltd. (2388) Two other Singaporean lenders — United Overseas Bank Ltd. (UOB) (No. 7) and DBS Group Holdings Ltd. (DBS) (No. 8) — were also among the strongest. “Singapore’s economy has performed quite stably and quite well, and for the Singaporean banks, we have real economic activities to finance,” Oversea-Chinese Banking CEO Samuel Tsien says. He credits the bank’s strength partly to its risk management practices.
No other country dominated the list as did Canada: The nation of 34.7 million people has only eight publicly traded banks, two of which are regional lenders. Only three U.S. banks –JPMorgan Chase (JPM) (No. 13), PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (PNC) (No. 17) and BB&T Corp. (BBT) (No. 20) — made the top 20. Four European banks were included: two from Sweden and one each from the U.K. and Switzerland.
$100 Billion or More
For the ranking, we considered only banks with at least $100 billion in assets. We weighed and combined five criteria, comparing Tier 1 capital with risk-weighted assets, for example, and nonperforming assets with total assets. Tier 1 capital includes a bank’s cash reserves, outstanding common stock and some classes of preferred stock, all of which combine to act as a buffer against losses.
Banks that posted an annual loss for last year or that failed government stress tests weren’t eligible for consideration.
Canadian banks invoke their strong capital levels, the country’s conservative lending culture and strict regulatory oversight under a single supervisor as reasons for their showing. The supervisor requires Canadian banks to hold a higher level of capital than do international standards.
Major banks around the world follow the rules of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision — an arm of the Bank for International Settlements, based in Basel, Switzerland, that draws banking regulators from 27 nations to set standards for lenders. The committee issued its first internationally acceptedcapital guidelines in 1988.
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