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Fri, Mar 30, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Citigroup hopes to hire 15,000 in Asia

KEY REGION A global review under way to trim the company's expenses may mostly spare Asia, where faster expansion will be crucial for cutting reliance on US earnings


Citigroup Inc CEO Charles Prince said he's "looking forward" to adding to the headcount in Asia even as shareholders pressure the bank to rein in rising costs.

The New York-based firm is planning acquisitions in Japan and Taiwan and expansion in China that may add about 15,000 people to the payroll.

"When we expand through acquisition, people come along with that," Prince said at a press briefing in Beijing yesterday.

"We get lots of great people through transactions," he said.

The firm's operating expenses jumped 15 percent to US$52 billion last year, growing twice as fast as revenue. A global review under way to trim expenses may mostly spare Asia, where the region's faster expansion will be key to meeting Prince's aim of cutting reliance on the US for earnings.

Citigroup gets about 20 percent of profit from Asia, compared with 41 percent for HSBC Holdings Plc Prince has said he wants to generate more than 60 percent of earnings overseas, from 45 percent last year.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the company plans to eliminate 15,000 jobs, or almost 5 percent of its workforce, as part of a plan to lower annual expenses by more than US$1 billion.

Prince has said he plans to explain his strategy to reduce costs before the company announces first-quarter earnings on April 16. He declined to comment on any job cuts yesterday.

"We have very strong growth throughout the international space, both in the emerging markets and in selected developed markets," Prince said. "Our inorganic expansion in Japan should be very good."

Citigroup is making a US$13.4 billion bid for Japan's third-largest brokerage, Nikko Cordial Corp. The Tokyo-based company, with which Citigroup has an investment-banking venture, employs about 12,000. Citigroup has about 7,000 employees in the country.

Buying Nikko would give New York-based Citigroup more than 100 branches in Japan and an additional ?30 trillion (US$256 billion) of clients' assets in Asia's biggest economy.

Citigroup is also close to buying Taiwan's Bank of Overseas Chinese (華僑銀行), the nation's regulator said in a March 13 interview. That would add about 2,000 employees, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The purchase would also add 55 branches in Taiwan, where the government won't allow any new outlets to be opened as it encourages mergers in the industry.

In China, the company plans to add 1,000 employees this year and almost double its outlets in the country. Citigroup employs about 3,000 people in China now.

"China stands out as a country of unparalleled promise," Prince said yesterday. One priority is "to continue building our investment-banking business in China."

Prince said the firm was eager to enter the domestic securities industry.

China requires overseas banks to have a local partner to arrange domestic share sales and offer brokerage services. Only Goldman Sachs Group Inc and UBS now have management control of brokerages in the country.

Citigroup will continue to invest in its partners in the country, Prince also said. The bank led a team that in December bought 86 percent of Guangdong Development Bank (廣東發展銀行).

With six of 16 board seats, the most held by any of the bank's owners, Citigroup won access to 500 banking outlets in a market where annual loan growth averaged 14.5 percent from 2000 to 2005.

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