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Canadian banks, after months of anticipation, are starting to deploy their capital reserves as they eye rivals weakened by the global economic crisis.
Bank of Montreal (BMO-T), the nation's fourth-largest bank, said Friday it agreed to buy Wisconsin's Marshall & Ilsley Corp. (MI-N) bank for about $4.1 billion.
The all-stock deal was the largest by Canada's big six banks this year, each playing to their strengths as they snap up rivals or push into markets as competitors retreat.
In April BMO's Harris unit announced plans to acquire assets and liabilities of U.S. lender Amcore from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in a deal to boost its reach in Illinois and Wisconsin.
The bank said last month it was seeking acquisitions to complement its wealth management business in China.
Following is a look at the acquisition strategies some of the other Canadian banks, and some of the deals done in the past year:
TORONTO DOMINION BANK
Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD-T), Canada's second-largest, has likely been the most active, targeting growth in U.S. retail banking, where it has gone from having no branches in 2004 to now boasting about 1,300, versus 1,100 in Canada.
BANK OF NOVA SCOTIA
Canada's third-largest lender, Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS-T), has stepped up acquisitions in recent months, expanding its footprint in Latin America, where it is active in Peru, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. It also has a growing presence in East Asia.
ROYAL BANK OF CANADA
Canada's largest bank, Royal Bank of Canada (RY-T), has also signaled it is on the lookout for acquisitions.
CANADIAN IMPERIAL BANK OF COMMERCE
The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM-T), the No. 5 bank, has been active in building its portfolio of credit card businesses, but has indicated limited interest in opportunities for acquisitions outside of Canada.
National Bank of Canada (NA-T), the country's sixth-largest bank, has said it wants to bulk up its retail presence across Canada, and could bid on struggling smaller lenders to add to its branch network.