BDO, BPI express interest in Citi Philippines' retail biz

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 23) — Two of the country's largest banks are eyeing to absorb the consumer banking business of Citi Philippines, as the American investment bank has decided to end its operations in several markets.

A top official of Sy-led Banco de Oro Unibank, Inc. on Friday said the group may explore opportunities and pursue the retail and consumer business of Citi Philippines.

"We will likely take a look at it," BDO president and chief executive officer Nestor Tan said during the lender's virtual annual stockholders meeting.

"It's a good business franchise that any bank will be interested to look at so it's not something you can ignore," he added.

The BDO executive, however, stressed they have to be "cognizant" due to the group's size, which may trigger possible overlaps with its business.

READ: Bangko Sentral wants Citi Philippines to ensure consumer banking exit is orderly

The foreign banking giant last week bared the move to exit from its consumer franchises in the Philippines and 12 other markets as it seeks to focus its resources on four wealth centers: Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, and London.

The local unit clarified in a statement that the process will not happen overnight, assuring customers that its ATMs, call centers, and offices, will continue to be operational for the time being.

Meanwhile, Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Islands confirmed to the local bourse on Friday that its president and chief executive officer, Jose Teodoro Limcaoco, expressed an interest to acquire the local retail business of Citigroup.

Ocampo said they "like" the quality of Citi Philippines' portfolio.

"On a combined basis, if you put BPI and Citibank portfolio, we will almost double the BPI business. So yes, we're very keen on looking at the Citibank business," Ocampo was quoted as saying in a report by Philstar.com.

Sought about a potential impact in the banking sector once the largest banks absorb Citi's operations, Michael L. Ricafort, chief economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., said there will be "a good chance for continuity in the business."

"[This may be] similar to M&A (mergers and acquisitions) transactions in recent years, especially whenever foreign/global banks sell the Philippine units...as has been seen over the past 10 to 20 years," he told CNN Philippines in a mobile message.

"There is just a chance that some banks may be on the lookout/prowl and ready to take some of the market share, through outright acquisition or through increased competition in terms of improved service offering/proposition to clients," Ricafort added.

As Citi Philippines entices more suitors, its parent bank could witness competitive bids, Ricafort said. "[It is] good for the seller, in terms of getting a higher price for its Philippine business."