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BMO Financial Group Continues Selective U.S. Expansion with Purchase of Lakeland Community Bank Expands Harris Bank presence in one of Chicago area’s highest growth markets  

BMO Financial Group (TSX, NYSE: BMO) announced today the signing of an agreement for its U.S. subsidiary, Harris Bank, to acquire Lakeland Community Bank.

Founded in 1991, Lakeland is a privately held, full-service community bank with $US 171 million in assets and $US 148 million in deposits as of June 30, 2003.  Headquartered in Round Lake Heights, Illinois, Lakeland has two locations in the fast-growing Lake County region of greater Chicago.

This is the 12th transaction by BMO Financial Group in the U.S. in just over three years.  The purchase price is $CDN 46 million ($US 34.6 million).  Excluding one-time costs, the impact of the transaction on BMO cash earnings per share is neutral from year one.

“Lakeland is a high-performing community bank and this acquisition complements our existing expansion plans by giving us the opportunity to extend our presence in a very attractive market,” said Frank Techar, President and CEO, Harris Bank.

“The Harris franchise is the foundation upon which BMO bases the extension of our U.S. growth strategy,” said Tony Comper, Chairman and CEO, BMO Financial Group. “Demographically and economically, the Chicago area continues to be one of the most dynamic in the United States.  Lakeland represents a valued addition to our existing branch network.

“We will continue to pursue our consistent, disciplined strategy for growth, which includes seeking opportunities for acquisitions in high growth markets,” he said.  Comper noted that Harris added eight new branches in 2003, and is on track to reach 200 locations throughout the greater Chicago area over the next few years.

“We’re delighted that Lakeland’s management team is joining Harris,” added Mr. Techar.  “Lakeland’s local knowledge and understanding fits well with Harris’ community banking model, and will be invaluable as we continue to expand our operations into nearby areas.”

This acquisition, which is expected to close by no later than the first quarter of 2004, subject to regulatory approval, will increase Harris Bank’s network to 155 locations and nearly 450 ABMs throughout the greater Chicago area.

BMO Financial Group is one of the largest financial services providers in North America, offering a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.  BMO serves clients across Canada and in the United States through its Canadian retail arm BMO Bank of Montreal; Chicago-based Harris Bank, a major U.S. mid-west financial services organization; The Harris wealth management group; BMO Nesbitt Burns, one of Canada’s leading full-service investment firms and Harris Nesbitt, which provides investment banking services across the U.S..


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