Saturday, 24 January 2009

Citibank sees Philippine consumer business growing

By Eileen A. Mencias
The Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=business4_jan23_2009

Citibank said it expects consumer business to grow further this year after climbing 15 percent despite the adverse global environment.

“There’s a global answer and there’s a Philippines answer. In the Philippines, people are confident and they are buying goods,” Mark Jones, Citibank global consumer group country business manager and Citibank Savings chairman, told reporters yesterday.

“In the Philippines, we are cautious because of the global condition but the Philippine economy seems to be sound. The policies put in place in previous years have put the country in good standing,” Jones said. “We’re not aggressively going after more customers because we’d like to maintain our growth trajectory. We won’t be aggressive until there’s some clarity in the global conditions.”

Citibank will complete the merger of Citibank Savings and Citifinancial on Feb. 4, with the former as the surviving entity. Citibank Savings has 36 branches while Citifinancials has 16 that are now being integrated into the savings bank. The two has combined assets of P11.25 billion.

Jones said the bank had started offering car loans in November and planned to go into mortgage by the middle of this year.

Citibank NA is investing $25 million (P1.17 billion) into the Philippines this year to strengthen its consumer business and keep its lead.

Citibank Savings is investing some $15 million for a new system alone and another $1 million for new automated teller machines.

Another $1 million will be invested to improve Citibank Savings online banking and $1 million will be plowed in to improve its phone banking service.

The merger between Citibank Savings and Citifinancial is expected to improve the bank’s margins because of the synergies and allow them to deploy their resources more efficiently. Citibank Savings has huge deposits while Citifinancial has a relatively big loan portfolio.

Citibank bought Citibank Savings from Insular Life in 2005 for P1 billion. In 2006, Citibank invested an additional P1 billion into the savings bank. Citifinancial, meanwhile, is focused on the personal loan business.

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