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Citigroup's (C) Australian Consumer Business Sale Gets ACCC Nod

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Citigroup Inc.’s (C - Free Report) sale of its Australian consumer banking business to National Australia Bank (NABZY - Free Report) has received approval from the Australian regulatory body, The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (“ACCC”). With this, the companies have cleared a crucial regulatory hurdle to close the deal.

Specifically, the ACCC reviewed competition in the supply of credit cards, and owing to both companies overlapping in the supply of consumer banking products and services in Australia, concluded that the deal would not restrict competition in the sector.

Making progress on its strategy to exit consumer banking operations in 13 markets across Asia and EMEA, including Australia, Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, and Korea, Citigroup reached an agreement to sell Citigroup Australia Pty Limited’s Australian consumer business in early August.

With this, A$4.3-billion unsecured lending portfolio, A$7.9 billion in residential mortgages, and nearly A$9 billion in deposits will be transferred to National Australia Bank. As per the deal terms, 800 employees of Citigroup will also join National Australia Bank.

Following the closure of the deal, National Australia Bank is likely to become the country’s second-largest credit card provider.

The deal comes at the helm of major banks facing increasing pressure as unsecured lending products like buy-now-pay-later continue to gain traction, along with the growing popularity of fintechs and digital wallets eating into banks' businesses. Hence, National Australia Bank’s buyout of Citigroup’s consumer banking business will place the former in a prime position to navigate the shifting consumer preferences.

Over the past year, shares of Citigroup have gained 18.7% compared with 47.2% growth recorded by the industry.

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Currently, Citigroup carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Competitive Landscape

Several companies from the finance sector are undertaking consolidation efforts to counter the low-interest rate environment along with the heightened costs of investments in technology.

Earlier this month, Citizens Financial Group, Inc. (CFG - Free Report) completed its previously-announced merger with JMP Group LLC. Citizens Financial announced the all-cash deal in September in a bid to augment its capital market capabilities.

The buyout is expected to foster growth, diversify Citizens Financial's capital market platform and provide greater scale in key verticals like healthcare, technology, financials and real estate.

Also, U.S. Bancorp (USB - Free Report) , the parent company of U.S. Bank, has agreed to acquire San Francisco-based fintech firm, TravelBank, which offers technology-driven cost and travel management solutions. In September, U.S. Bancorp closed the acquisition of another fintech company named Bento Technologies, which provides payment and expense management services to small and mid-sized businesses.

Backed by a solid balance sheet, U.S. Bancorp has been expanding its business through acquisitions. U.S. Bancorp’s inorganic growth efforts, combined with the ongoing investments in innovative product enhancements, services and people, have strengthened its fee-based businesses, beside increasing market share.