Following reports in August of an impending exit from Japan’s retail banking market, Citigroup made it official with an announcement last week. According to Citi, the global bank has sold its retail banking business in Japan to Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation for an undisclosed amount, which they called “not material to Citi.” In their press release, Citi also used the terminology of “transferred” when relating to sell. Within the financial industry, this terminology in the past has often referred to a deal with little to no upfront cash and terms of the deal tied to future performance of the “transferred” customers.
All in all, according to Citi, Sumitomo Mitsui will be picking up 740,000 customer accounts from Citibank Japan with an approximate deposit value of $21 billion. The sale is expected to close in late 2015 pending regulatory approvals. Not included in the sale is the firm’s credit card business, Citi Cards Japan, a unit which Citi is also pursuing a possible sale of. Overall, on the news Citi stated that the “sale represents another step in Citi’s strategy of further streamlining its Global Consumer Bank as announced on October 14, 2014.”
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For Citi, the sale of its banking division comes as it was unable to gain much traction in consumer lending, with deposits figures well above loans. As related in August, and via Citi’s statement, the corporate, institutional and government banking business will remain in Japan. In contrast to retail banking which is a domestic product, the corporate, institutional and government divisions are key components of Citi’s global operations. The presence in Japan furthers their ability to provide investment banking services in and out of Asia.
In addition, in terms of FX, the commercial lending flow from Japan is an essential component allowing them to be a top primary dealer for the yen. With the yen being among the most volatile currencies since the end of 2012, providing liquidity to both Japan’s local FX market and the rest of the world continues to provide an economic opportunity for Citi’s dealing team.