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Citigroup Inc. : Citi to Shut Half its Greek Branches

11/21/2012 | 06:46pm US/Eastern

Citigroup Inc. (C) is closing nearly half of its 37 bank branches in Greece, almost four years after it first decided to exit retail banking there.

Citi blamed the ailing Greece economy for the decision to close 16 branches there; about 170 employees will lose their jobs, according to a person familiar with the matter. Selling a bank in Greece proved tough in the European fiscal crisis that pushed Greece and other European countries in deep economic trouble.

The bank will keep 21 branches in Athens and Thessaloniki until a buyer is found for its remaining Greece retail banking, credit card and consumer lending businesses.

Citi has been selling or shuttering its retail banking and consumer lending businesses in several European countries, including retreats in Scandinavia and from its much larger retail banking business in Germany. Citi recently sold its Citibank Belgium and its U.K. online bank Egg Banking PLC, among other consumer businesses.

In 2009, it created Citi Holdings, a division that manages all assets and business that Citi decided wouldn't fit with more narrowed strategy following the financial crisis. It has scaled back and restructured several hard-to-sell businesses in its holdings division, including its OneMain Financial consumer lending business in the U.S.

Citi has said it sold more than 60 businesses and reduced assets in Citi Holdings by more than $600 billion since the financial crisis began.

Meanwhile, the Citi continues to concentrate its U.S. retail banking branches in large cities. Those Citibank branches remain part the core operations Citi wants to keep and grow.

It will close nine of its 31 Citibank branches in Massachusetts that aren't in Boston; customers there will be informed after Thanksgiving. It is unclear how many positions will be eliminated.

"Boston remains a U.S. key market for Citibank," a Citi spokeswoman said. The Boston Herald previously reported the branch closings.

For years, it has closed Citibank branches outside the cities it considers key to its urban banking strategy and opened branches in big cities, including New York. The bank added five branches so far this year, one in San Jose, Calif. and four in New York City, the spokeswoman said. It is planning to open another three in December in Florida, Pennsylvania, and California.

More branch openings are planned for early next year; Citi wants to keep the number of branches steady at around 1,000 in the U.S., the spokeswoman said.

Write to Matthias Rieker at matthias.rieker@dowjones.com

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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