Citi Warns of Charges With South Korean Retail-Banking Exit
(Bloomberg) -- Citigroup Inc. warned it will incur “significant” charges in coming years as it winds down retail-banking operations in South Korea.
“In connection with the wind-down plan, Citi expects to incur significant wind-down and related charges through the end of 2023, consisting of cash expenditures related to voluntary termination benefits and related charges,” the company said in the filing.
Even though Citigroup opted to wind down retail operations in South Korea, the bank said it still expects the exits from the 13 consumer franchises to be accretive to capital and allow the bank to release roughly $7 billion of tangible common equity over time. About $2 billion of that amount is related to Citigroup’s plans in South Korea, the bank said in a statement Monday.
While Citigroup is pursuing an exit of retail-banking operations in South Korea and the dozen other markets, the lender will maintain its institutional franchise in the regions and continue serving the firm’s wholesale and corporate clients.
“We continue to make progress on our strategy refresh, allowing us to increase the capital we return to our shareholders over time,” Chief Financial Officer Mark Mason said in the statement. In Asia and its operations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Citigroup “will focus our resources on higher-returning institutional businesses and double down in wealth, where we have distinct competitive advantages and meaningful potential for growth.”
For the 11 remaining markets, Citigroup is still weighing sales. The bank said Monday that it’s continuing conversations with potential buyers and has seen “strong interest from a broad range of bidders.”
Citibank Korea Inc. began negotiation of termination benefits and related charges with employee unions, but “is unable at this time to provide an estimate of the total amount or range of amounts” likely to be incurred as part of the wind-down plan, Citigroup said in the filing.
Citigroup operates 39 branches in South Korea, more than half of which are in the Seoul area. The lender was the first foreign bank to establish a presence in the country in 1967, and it formed Citibank Korea after acquiring KorAm Bank in 2004.
The fact that Citigroup doesn’t yet have an estimate for charges tied to the Korea wind-down is “not ideal,” Susan Roth Katzke, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG, said in a note to clients.
For Citigroup, the “key will be the potential for other market exits to generate neutralizing gains,” she said.
Citigroup shares fell 0.8% to $70.80 at 2:58 p.m. in New York. They’ve gained 15% this year, underperforming the 37% increase in the S&P 500 Financials Index.
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