Bank One, the nation’s sixth largest bank, said on Tuesday corporate profits rose 16% in its latest quarter fueled by strong banking and credit card revenue and fewer bad loans.

The Chicago-based firm inked a deal last week to be bought by J.P. Morgan Chase for an estimated $58 billion as consolidation in the financial services industry continues.

Bank One said fourth-quarter net income rose to $978 million, or 87 cents a share, up from $842 million, or 72 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Excluding one-time items, the company said it earned 82 cents a share, which topped the 21-analyst consensus estimate of 80 cents a share, according to research firm First Call, a Thomson Financial company.

Total revenue for the quarter declined 2% to $4.1 billion. Analysts were expecting sales to come in at $4.3 billion.

"We are ending 2003 in excellent condition, with common and upgraded systems, a fortress balance sheet and noticeable growth across most lines of business," said Jamie Dimon, the company’s chairman and chief executive, in a prepared statement.

Net income at its commercial banking unit grew to $370 million, an increase of $222 million, largely due to improvements in credit quality. Excluding one-time items, net income was $258 million, an increase of $110 million, or 74%. Retail banking rose 12% to $398 million in the quarter.

Its credit card division generated net income of $347 million, an 8% improvement from last year. Investment management experienced a 75% growth spurt driven by the acquisition of Zurich Life, an Illinois insurance company.

The marriage between Banc One and J.P. Morgan would give the combined company more than $1.1 trillion in assets, second only to Citigroup. Additionally, Bank One anticipates that regulators will take action against the firm in connection with their probe into mutual fund trading abuses.

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