Citigroup selling its Japan retail bank business

Pedestrians pass before a branch of the Sumitomo Mitsui bank in Tokyo on Dec 25, 2014. Citigroup said on Thursday it was selling its century-old Japanese retail banking operations to major lender Sumitomo Mitsui as part of an effort to shrink its con
Pedestrians pass before a branch of the Sumitomo Mitsui bank in Tokyo on Dec 25, 2014. Citigroup said on Thursday it was selling its century-old Japanese retail banking operations to major lender Sumitomo Mitsui as part of an effort to shrink its consumer business globally. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Citigroup said on Thursday it was selling its century-old Japanese retail banking operations to major lender Sumitomo Mitsui as part of an effort to shrink its consumer business globally.

Financial details were not released, but Japanese news reports estimated the deal to be worth about 40 billion yen (S$439.4 million).

Under the agreement, Sumitomo unit SMBC Trust Bank would acquire Citibank Japan's operations including 32 retail branches, 740,000 customers, 1,600 employees, and deposits worth 2.5 trillion yen.

The transaction is expected to be completed in late 2015.

"The sale represents another step in Citi's strategy of further streamlining its Global Consumer Bank," the United States (US) company said in a statement, adding that it would keep its profitable Japanese commercial banking operations.

The US firm entered the Japanese market in 1902, one of the first foreign lenders to operate in the country.

Since the US bank brought in a new chief in late 2012, it has been cutting retail operations in a host of countries, including Honduras, Turkey, Romania, and Uruguay.

In Japan, low interest rates, following years of economic slump, have squeezed retail businesses.

Two years ago British giant HSBC withdrew from retail banking in Japan and there are relatively few foreign lenders offering such services in the country.