It was reported in the Indian media on Sun (25 Apr) that DBS Bank India is currently in “advanced” talk with Citibank to acquire Citi’s consumer banking business.

Citi has recently announced plans to exit consumer banking operations in 13 markets including India. Sources close to the development said Citi is keen to exit its India consumer banking operations soon and would like to sell the entire set-up in one go.

In Feb this year, Citigroup has stated, “As our incoming CEO Jane Fraser said in January, we are undertaking a dispassionate and thorough review of our strategy, including our mix of businesses and how they fit together. As you would expect, many different options are being considered and we will take the right amount of time before making any decisions.

“Talks with DBS Bank are at an advanced stage and they are keen to take up the entire consumer banking operation,” said a person familiar with the development.

Citi declined to comment on the acquisition by DBS.

However, DBS told the media, “At this juncture, the details are still unclear. However, we have always been open to exploring sensible bolt-on opportunities in markets where we have a consumer banking franchise and where we can overlay our digital capabilities to serve our customers better.”

According to a report by JM Financial, Citi’s Indian consumer business has a sizeable presence, with retail loans totaling about Rs 3,200 crore (S$600 million). The bank employs 19000 people across 35 branches in India.

DBS Bank India is first among large foreign banks to start operating as a wholly-owned, locally incorporated subsidiary in India, thanks to the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) signed between Singapore and India, which helps to open up opportunities for DBS to expand into India.

Last Nov, DBS Bank India acquired the Chennai-based Lakshmi Vilas Bank (LVB) when India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), seized control of the loss-making LVB and “forced a merger” with DBS Bank India.

As part of the deal, DBS injected some S$450 million into the merged entity. Former LVB shareholders who felt they were shortchanged are currently filing lawsuits to stop the deal (‘LVB shareholder alleges merger with DBS India “irregular, arbitrary, irrational, unreasonable, illegal”‘).

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