Citigroup is in ‘active dialogue’ for sale of its Russia retail operations

Citigroup is in “active dialogue” with potential buyers of its consumer and commercial banking operations in Russia, Chief Executive Jane Fraser said.

Investors had grown increasingly concerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — and the ensuing financial sanctions thrust upon many of Russia’s largest banks — would thwart Citigroup’s efforts to exit its operations in the country, a push the New York-based lender first announced last year.

On Monday, Fraser said Citigroup still intends to sell those divisions, even as it continues to serve corporate clients in the region.

Jane Fraser, chief executive officer of Citigroup Global Markets Inc., center, participates in a panel discussion during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Monday, May 2, 2022. The event convenes the best minds in the world to tackle its most urgent challenges and to help realize its most exciting opportunities.

Lauren Justice/Bloomberg

“We’re selling our consumer and our commercial banking franchise on the ground there, and we’re in active dialogue around that,” Fraser said in a Bloomberg Television interview at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California.

Citigroup last year announced it would seek to exit retail banking operations in 13 markets across Europe and Asia, and later said it would also seek to dispose of those operations in Mexico. Now, the bank has just four remaining markets in which it’s seeking buyers: Russia, Poland, China and Mexico.

“We looked at China and Russia and Poland that we’re working on actively, and then Mexico was just announced recently and we’re already in the market,” Fraser said. “We’re on a multiyear journey, and we are getting on with it.”

Fraser said her firm is unable to pull out of Russia completely because it’s still helping many of the world’s largest corporations wind down operations in the country.

“You can’t exit if you don’t have your bank on the ground there. So we’ve stopped soliciting new business, new clients — we’re clearly shrinking down our exposures, our business,” she said. “But you’re kind of the captain who’s the last one off the ship. Because we can’t help other people with their own programs for exit if you’re not facilitating them.”

— With assistance from Sonali Basak and Scarlet Fu.

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