Kasikornbank weighs bid for Citigroup’s Thai retail business

Kasikornbank weighs bid for Citigroup’s Thai retail business

Kasikornbank head office in Rat Burana district, Bangkok
Kasikornbank head office in Rat Burana district, Bangkok

Thailand’s second-biggest lender is considering a bid for Citigroup Inc’s retail assets in the country to expand its wealth management, consumer lending and credit card businesses.

Kasikornbank is interested in the US lender’s business in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy and will study the details as soon as the process is open, Chief Executive Officer Kattiya Indaravijaya said in a recent phone interview. “Citigroup’s retail business here has a very large and good customer base.”

Kasikornbank joins counterparts such as Singapore’s DBS Group Holdings and United Overseas Bank in expressing an interest in Citigroup’s regional assets. The US bank could fetch as much as $6 billion from selling its retail business in 13 markets across Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.

For Kasikornbank, acquisitions and regional expansion are key as it fends off rising competition from new entrants into the industry especially from financial technology firms, said Kattiya. Still, any bid for Citi’s assets would only happen if an acquisition creates synergy and adds value to the bank’s existing businesses, she said.

Citigroup follows other global lenders such as Standard Chartered and HSBC Holdings in exiting their retail businesses in Thailand. HSBC sold its Thai retail business in 2012, while Standard Chartered divested its business in 2017.

Separately, Kasikornbank plans to expand its operations in Indonesia and Vietnam -- particularly in retail -- to tap rising demand from growing populations, Kattiya said. The bank is partnering with PT Bank Maspion Indonesia, in which it owns about a 10% stake. In Vietnam, Kasikornbank has a banking license and is cooperating with e-commerce providers, she said.

Ms Kattiya expressed “great concern” about the new outbreak of novel coronavirus, which has severely hurt Thailand’s economic recovery. The government’s new business restrictions to stem the new infections have affected Kasikornbank’s debtors, especially tourism-related companies and small firms, she said.

The country’s daily Covid cases surged to a record of 9,635 new infections with outbreaks in prisons and construction sites in the capital showing no signs of easing, the government said on Monday. Thailand’s economy shrank 2.6% in the first quarter.

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