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Citigroup may sell 50 California branches

SD offices to remain

Citigroup Inc. is seeking buyers for about 50 branches holding $3 billion of deposits in California as the third-largest U.S. lender pares brick-and-mortar outlets, said three people involved in the process.

The branches, in rural areas from Sacramento to north of Los Angeles, could sell for more than $100 million, said the people, who asked for anonymity because the negotiations are confidential.

Citigroup (NYSE: C) had 384 branches in California holding close to $48 billion in deposits as of June 30, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. It wants to keep its offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, they said. The company has about 25 branches in San Diego County, according to its website.

CEO Michael Corbat is trimming branches in the United States and abroad as the New York-based company focuses on what he has called the world's top 150 cities. The company sold 21 branches in Texas in December to BB&T Corp. (NYSE: BBT). Citigroup had more than 3,700 branches worldwide at year-end, with fewer than 1,000 in the United States, according to its annual securities filing.

“We continue to rationalize our branch footprint in North America by reducing the number and size of our branches while concentrating our presence in major urban areas,” Chief Financial Officer John Gerspach said on the company’s first-quarter earnings call.

Andrew Brent, a bank spokesman, said the bank doesn’t comment on market rumors.

Citigroup failed to find a buyer for 16 Nevada branches last year, people familiar with the matter said. Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC), based in San Francisco, has the nation’s largest branch network with 6,175 outlets as of Dec. 31.

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