In an effort to buff up its merger proposal for Great Western Financial Corp., H.F. Ahmanson & Co. on Tuesday posted first-quarter earnings a week ahead of schedule-and the news was good.

The Irwindale, Calif.-based thrift, locked in a takeover battle with Washington Mutual Inc. of Seattle, said it earned $103.1 million in the quarter, up 59% from the year-earlier period and 13% from the preceding quarter. The figures exclude a one-time gain from the sale of four Arizona branches.

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