Citigroup appears to be making a new attempt to rid itself of dozens of branches in California, an effort that epitomizes the third-largest U.S. bank's balky restructuring process.
Citi plans to shed 60 branches from its U.S. operation sometime early this year, Chief Financial Officer John Gerspach told analysts during the bank's fourth-quarter earnings call on Thursday. He did not provide further details.
A person with direct knowledge of the matter said the bulk of those 60 branches is in California, and all of them are to be closed rather than sold. The upcoming closures will include Citigroup retail locations in multiple geographic regions, "largely" outside urban areas and "largely" inside of California, the person said.
Citi postponed the sale of 50 California retail locations last year for reasons that are unclear, the person, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told American Banker. They were estimated to have deposits totaling $3 billion, according to reports at the time.
A number of the branches in that group from last year are among the 60 branches that Gerspach mentioned Thursday, the person said, adding that the closures will include some Sacramento-area locations.
Some of the branches could be sold in 2016 after temporary leases that the bank was forced to sign on multiple locations lapse, the person said.
Andrew Brent, a spokesman for the bank, declined to comment on the matter.
The situation is part of Citi's larger effort to shrink its retail operation.
Citigroup, which closed 130 retail branches in North America in 2014, is in the process of reducing its national footprint to six U.S. cities, down from a 14-city concentration laid out just a year ago.
New York, Boston, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco will make up more than 90% of Citi's U.S. geographic presence by the end of 2015, Gerspach said on Thursday, describing those cities as the "most productive" U.S. centers for the bank. The bank had 384 branches in California as of Jan. 8, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data shows.
Citigroup is undergoing a multiyear effort to tighten its loose confederation of service groups into a more urban and global-client-serving bank. The cost of restructuring has not been cheap. In September, Citigroup announced it would completely exit its retail branch footprint in Texas, where Houston has become the second-fastest-growing city in the country, according to U.S. census data.
North American repositioning and legal expenses jumped to $127 million in the fourth quarter, from $86 million in the previous quarter. Global repositioning and legal costs were $3.5, nearly double from the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Citigroup's retail banking business produced revenues of $1.3 billion, up 11% since Sept. 30, and deposits remained almost exactly flat. Mortgage originations fell 6% from the third quarter to $6.7 billion. The bank completed closures for 46 North American branches over the fourth-quarter period.
Jonathan Larsen, who oversees Citigroup's retail operations, told Reuters less than a week ago that the bank had no specific plans to cut more branches in the near term.
Citigroup is expected to complete "Project Rainbow" the name given to its global consolidation mission sometime in 2016.
Citigroup was last year said to be seeking bidders for 50 branches around Sacramento, according to Bloomberg News, which first reported that possibility in April. A company spokesperson declined at the time to comment about those reports.
Matt Scully is the enterprise reporter at American Banker.
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