Bank of Montreal said first-quarter earnings rose 34% to top C$1 billion, helped by much lower loan-loss provisions and the recent acquisition of Marshall & Ilsley Corp.

The Toronto-based lender, kicking off the first-quarter reporting season for Canada's big banks, said it earned C$1.11 billion or C$1.63 a share in its fiscal first quarter ended Jan. 31, up from C$825 million or C$1.34 a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings, which exclude certain items such as costs related to its purchase of Marshall & Ilsley and a restructuring charge in its capital-markets operations, were up 19% to C$972 million or C$1.42 a share, beating the Thomson Reuters mean estimate of C$1.38.

Canada's fourth-biggest lender by assets said loan-loss provisions were less than half the level it recorded a year earlier, falling to C$141 million from C$323 million. Return on equity was 17.2% versus 17.8%.

The bank said its integtation of Marshall & Ilsley, purchased last summer, is on track. The acquisition of the Milwaukee, Wis.-based bank more than doubled BMO's U.S. branches to 688 and contributed C$269 million to fiscal first-quarter earnings, up from C$199 million in the fourth quarter.

BMO had missed expectations in the fourth quarter, hurt by higher loan-loss provisions and expenses.

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