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Citigroup (C) Applies for License to Re-enter China IB Space

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After exiting the Chinese securities joint venture (JV) in 2018, Citigroup C now plans to form a fully owned investment bank (IB) in the country. The company has submitted its application for a license to the China Securities Regulatory Commission. The news was first reported by Wall Street Journal.

Further, Citigroup is mulling to apply for a futures license in the coming months and is expected to hire more than 100 people in China over the next two years to support its onshore expansion plans. The company noted, “We continue to assess opportunities that will support our global and local clients’ onshore business.”

If it wins approval, Citigroup will become the eighth global bank to provide IB services in China. It will join the league of other major global banks, including JPMorgan JPM, Goldman Sachs GS and Morgan Stanley MS, that either have approval for 100% ownership of their local securities venture or obtained a majority stake in their JVs.

Also, having its own securities license will permit Citigroup to underwrite yuan-denominated stock and bond offerings, and handle trading of these securities.

Given that China’s $53-trillion financial market is now open to foreign firms, following the removal of ownership restrictions in 2018, several global banks have been rushing to capitalize on the lucrative prospect. JPMorgan and Goldman had received approvals to own 100% of their onshore securities JVs this August and October, respectively.

Further, Morgan Stanley has received a nod from the Chinese regulators to have a majority interest in its local securities JV. Additionally, Goldman, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley have plans to expand further in the country to boost revenues.

Though Citigroup will be a late entrant in the IB business in China, the company’s past experience will help expand operations there. It must be noted that the company had established Citi Orient Securities with a 33% stake in 2011, before exiting the business after seven years.

Shares of Citigroup have rallied 8% over the past year, underperforming the industry’s rise of 36%.

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