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Citibank Japan to withdraw from retail banking business

Kyodo, JIJI

Citibank Japan Ltd. is arranging to sell its retail banking business as Japan’s loose monetary policy has kept interest rates ultralow and squeezed the bank’s profit margin, industry sources said.

The company will maintain its corporate banking business, including settlement, currency trading and assistance for overseas business expansions, according to the sources.

Citibank has already contacted some Japanese financial institutions, including major Japanese banks, about the sale. Bidding procedures are expected to begin in September or later, and the company aims to complete the sale by the end of next March if it can obtain approval from the Financial Services Agency.

A company spokesman denied the information, but the U.S. company will announce an auction as early as next month, aiming to sell the retail business by March 2015 upon approval from the Financial Services Agency, a separate source said.

The bank’s deposits in Japan amount to some ¥3.8 trillion, in more than 30 branches and offices, mainly in large urban areas. The relatively affluent customer base could be a lure for Japanese financial institutions.

International Banking Corp. entered the Japanese market in 1902, and eventually became a wholly owned subsidiary of Citibank. The bank was the first to offer telephone and online transactions in Japan and lured depositors with free services at around 100 automated teller machines, as well as other ATMs operated by major Japanese banks and financial institutions.

In December 2011, the bank was ordered by the FSA to suspend some of its operations for failing to sufficiently explain the risks of its financial products to customers.

To restore compliance for its retail banking division, the company appointed Kazuya Jono, former senior managing director of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., as its president. But he was later replaced by Peter Eliot, president of Citigroup Japan Holdings Corp., as business remained sluggish.

  • Steve Jackman

    It seems the Japanese regulators, such as the FSA, will not be satisfied until they’ve forced all foreign companies to exit Japan. This is just another in a long string of foreign companies pulling out of Japan due to relentless pressure from regulators and nationalist/patriotic Japanese customers who’d rather deal exclusively with Japanese companies.