BDO, BPI keen on buying Citi’s retail business

Published April 23, 2021, 4:32 PM

by Lee C. Chipongian

Two of the country’s big banks BDO Unibank Inc. and Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) are currently looking into acquiring Citi Philippines’ retail business after its parent global company, US-based Citibank N.A., announced its planned exit.

 BDO president and CEO Nestor V. Tan said Friday (April 23)  that they will explore on how they can bid for it but in consideration of the size of its own hefty retail business.

 “We will likely take a look at it, it’s a good business franchise that any bank will be interested to look at. It’s not something that you can ignore,” Tan said during the bank’s annual stockholders meeting.

“However, we have to be cognizant that because of our size, the overlaps and the stickiness of the business for sale may be a factor,” he added.

BPI president and CEO, Jose Teodoro “TG” Limcaoco, said they too will study their options to buy CITI’s “excellent franchise.”

“People have reached out to us, to tell us of what the plans are for the Philippines. I think it’s quite public knowledge that they will exit and they will try to sell the business,” said Limcaoco after BPI’s own stockholders’ meeting. “We have told them that as soon as there is any information, we will take a look at it. Most likely we will be interested, it’s a great business,” he said, adding that both BPI and CITI have similar customer profiles.

In the meantime the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Friday assured depositors and customers of Citi that it is closely monitoring its planned shutdown of its retail banking business in the country.

The BSP said that based on Citi’s report to the BSP, there will be “no immediate change” in its retail business operations and retail customers.

The central bank added that the US bank will continue to be “business-as-usual until further notice.”

“The BSP is coordinating with CITI Philippines to ensure a smooth transition, including putting in place appropriate mechanism to timely respond to any queries and concerns of its depositors and other stakeholders,” the BSP said in a statement.

The BSP said Citi’s “strategy refresh” meant only that Citigroup will have more focus on its Global Consumer bank presence in Asia including the Philippines, Europe, Middle East and Africa or EMEA on wealth management and institutional businesses.

“As a result of this new strategy, Citigroup plans to exit from its retail banking business which covers credit cards, personal loans, retail deposits and other consumer-related services,” said the BSP.