NEW YORK, United States - Citigroup announced on Thursday it will exit 13 international consumer banking markets as it joined other large banks in reporting blowout earnings amid a strengthening US economy.
As with other large banks, Citigroup's profits were bolstered by a good performance in its investment banking and trading businesses, as well as the release of $3.9 billion in reserves set aside for bad loans.
"It's been a better-than-expected start to the year, and we are optimistic about the macro environment," said Citi Chief Executive Jane Fraser.
Citigroup reported first-quarter profits of $7.9 billion, more than three times the level in the year-ago period. Revenues fell seven percent to $19.3 billion.
With coronavirus vaccines and significant US fiscal stimulus spending boosting the outlook, major banks no longer expect huge loan defaults due to Covid-19.
But Citigroup unveiled a significant downsizing of its global consumer banking footprint as it shifted its focus to wealth management and away from retail banking in places where it is small.
Citigroup will depart China, India and 11 other retail markets, where "we don't have the scale we need to compete," Fraser said.
Fraser, who moved into the CEO role in March, described the pivot as part of an effort to "double down" on wealth management, where the growth opportunities are better.
Citigroup will focus its global consumer banking business on four markets: Singapore, Hong Kong, Britain and the United Arab Emirates.
Most of the markets being exited are in Asia, where Citigroup's global consumer banking business at the end of 2020 had $6.5 billion in revenues and $123.9 billion in deposits.
The bank has about 200 branches in these markets, but they will not be immediately affected by the announcement. The number of branches is expected to dwindle as Citigroup divests the properties, according to a company official.
The other 11 markets affected by the decision are: Australia, Bahrain, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
On Thursday, Bank of America reported its first-quarter profits more than doubled to $8.1 billion, while revenues held flat at $22.8 billion.
BofA's results were also bolstered by a reserve release of $2.7 billion, as well as a strong performance in investment banking and trading.
Shares of Citigroup fell 0.9 percent to $72.24, while Bank of America dropped 3.4 percent to $38.51 in afternoon trading.
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