September 16, 2009 / 2:42 PM / in 9 years

REFILE-UPDATE 1-BMO sees once-in-decades growth opportunities

(Corrects typing mistake in headline)

* CEO expects provisions for credit losses to remain high

* BMO CEO says China is an emerging growth area

* BMO CEO says U.S. buying opportunities modest until now

(Adds details)

TORONTO, Sept 16 (Reuters) - The end of the recession will bring “once-in-decades” growth opportunities, the head of Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO), Canada’s No. 4 bank, said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a conference, BMO Chief Executive Bill Downe said buying opportunities in the U.S. market have been modest so far, but the potential for bank acquisitions was improving.

“Now as we emerge from recession we will see once-in-decades opportunities for growth and I can tell you that today at BMO we have the platform, the capital and the customer orientation and the expertise to be a market leader,” Downe told the Toronto conference, hosted by Scotia Capital.

The bank said in reporting quarterly results in August that a purchase of a U.S. bank was a “reasonable” possibility if such a deal fits its Midwest strategy.

Downe said on Wednesday that Asia would be a key growth area and China will represent more than 1 percent of business — and possibly up to 3 percent — in the next 3-5 years.

He expected return on equity to improve as markets normalize, although provisions for credit losses would remain elevated through 2010.

In August, BMO said third-quarter profit surged 6.9 percent to C$557 million ($516 million), beating analysts’ expectations. ($1=$1.07 Canadian) (Reporting by Andrea Hopkins and Pav Jordan; editing by Janet Guttsman)

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