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DBS, StanChart plan to bid for Citigroup Asia retail units

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DBS, StanChart plan to bid for Citigroup Asia retail units. (PHOTO: Getty Creative)
DBS, StanChart plan to bid for Citigroup Asia retail units. (PHOTO: Getty Creative)

By Manuel Baigorri, Chanyaporn Chanjaroen and Samson Ellis

(Bloomberg) — DBS Group Holdings Ltd. and Standard Chartered Plc are among the lenders planning to bid for Citigroup Inc. consumer banking assets in Asia as the US lender divests units across five markets in the region, according to people familiar with the matter.

Binding bids for Citigroup’s retail assets in Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand are due Friday, while offers for the India unit are due next week, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is confidential.

The sales offer the buyers a chance to scale up high-end credit card and wealth businesses — whose appeal to banks lies primarily in their high fees rather than interest income — in regions that no longer fit in Citigroup’s refreshed strategy.

Under Chief Executive Officer Jane Fraser, the bank is exiting 13 markets across Asia and Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Its Australia business was sold to National Australia Bank Ltd. in August.

The Asia sales come as the bank reshapes its business around more profitable units like investment banking, and focuses its wealth business around hubs in Hong Kong, London, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Citigroup plans to raise US$150 billion in new money and hire 2,300 staff in Asia for wealth management by 2025.

In investment banking this year, Citigroup is the top-ranked foreign firm in the initial public offering league tables for Asia ex-Japan, and fifth for dealmaking, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Deliberations are ongoing and the prospective suitors could decide not to proceed with offers, the people said. A spokesperson for Citigroup in Asia said “conversations with potential buyers continue with strong interest from a broad range of bidders.”

Singapore’s DBS plans to submit binding offers for both Indonesia and Taiwan, the people said. CEO Piyush Gupta said in August the bank’s capital levels were high enough to buy more assets without raising extra funds, and expressed interest in several Asian markets. A representative for DBS declined to comment.

Beyond valuation, Citigroup will evaluate the proposals in each market based on other issues such as antitrust, job protection and strategy, one of the people said.

Taiwan

Citigroup’s Taiwan consumer assets could fetch about US$2 billion in a sale, the people said. DBS, Standard Chartered, Cathay Financial Holding Co. and Fubon Financial Holding Co. are set to lodge bids, the people said.

The business could even raise close to US$4 billion, depending on which assets are included, one of the people said.

Taiwan’s government will monitor and prevent Citigroup from transferring high-net worth clients in Taiwan to its units in Hong Kong and Singapore, the island’s financial regulator said in April.

Representatives for Standard Chartered and Fubon declined to comment. Cathay did not immediately respond to telephone calls and emails seeking comment.

Thailand

Bangkok Bank Pcl is planning to make an offer for Citigroup’s Thai assets, which could be valued at more than US$2 billion, the people said.

Bank of Ayudhya Pcl, owned by Japanese lender Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., is also weighing a bid, they said.

A representative for Bangkok Bank declined to comment, while Bank of Ayudhya didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

India

Citigroup has set a bid deadline next week for its Indian consumer assets, which could be valued about US$2 billion in a sale, the people said.

Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd., which is controlled by the world’s richest banker, Uday Kotak, is planning to bid for the assets, the people said. HDFC Bank Ltd. and ICICI Bank Ltd. are also weighing bids, they said.

Representatives for Kotak Mahindra and HDFC Bank declined to comment. ICICI didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.

Indonesia and the Philippines

DBS is planning to bid for Indonesia, while its Singaporean rival United Overseas Bank Ltd. is considering making an offer, the people said. UOB CEO Wee Ee Cheong said in May that the bank would look at the assets.

Malayan Banking Bhd. is also weighing a bid for the Citigroup unit, the sale of which could value the business as much as US$1 billion, they said.

A representative for Maybank declined to comment. UOB didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

BDO Unibank, Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., Bank of the Philippine Islands and Union Bank of the Philippines are mulling offers for Citigroup’s Philippines assets, which could fetch as much as US$1 billion in a sale, they said.

Union Bank President Edwin Bautista said in response to a Bloomberg News query that the assets will likely go to one of the country’s big three banks, and declined to comment further. Representatives for BPI and Metrobank declined to comment, while a representative for BDO Unibank couldn’t immediately comment.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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