Harris Bank parent aims for five-fold profit jump

By Reuters
Posted March 22 at 4:13 p.m.

Bank of Montreal aims to more than quintuple annual earnings from its U.S. operations, following the $4.1 billion acquisition of U.S. lender Marshall & Ilsley.

Speaking at the BMO’s annual shareholder meeting in Vancouver on Tuesday, Chief Executive Bill Downe said the bank earned $184 million from its U.S. retail and wealth management operations last year. He did not specify the currency, but the bank typically reports its U.S. results in U.S. dollars.

“In the medium term, our aspiration is that these businesses will generate $1 billion in earnings annually,” he said. He did not specify whether he meant Canadian or U.S. dollars.

BMO’s total net income was C$2.8 billion ($2.9 billion) in 2010.

The bank launched its takeover of Wisconsin-based M&I in December, part of a recent wave of acquisitions by Canadian banks, which emerged from the financial crisis in relatively sound financial shape.

Unlike many U.S. and European banks — including M&I, which received government funding — Canadian banks did not require bailouts.

At the time, BMO said it would issue about C$800 million in stock to help fund the deal, but the bank lowered that estimate to C$400 million earlier this month due to increasing comfort about its capital position.

M&I had 374 branches and about $52 billion in assets as of December.

Following the transaction, which Downe said should get regulatory approval in a couple of months, BMO will have 900 branches in Canada and 700 in the United States.

BMO has operated Chicago-based Harris Bank for more than two decades. It also has a growing presence in China.

BMO’s shares were flat at C$62.46 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday afternoon.

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