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Quick Hits: Citigroup to Acquire Mystery Bank


Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

Citigroup (C) appears to be making plans to acquire another US bank less than a month after walking away from Wachovia (WB).

The name of the possible acquisition isn't known, but insiders say it overlaps geographically with Citigorup's retail banking unit, which is concentrated in the Northeast, California and Texas, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Wells Fargo (WFC) is completing its purchase of Wachovia; any deal now completed by Citigroup may look like a ho-hum runner-up prize.

But Citigroup, like other major banks, seeks to secure a deeper base of deposits in the US. Adding new deposits and extending the bank's reach through acquisition is a cheap way to secure reliable funding in the future, especially as uncertainty continues to roil the capital markets.

This is good news for consumers as banks boost interest rates to attract new depositors.

Citigroup is looking for fresh capital. Last month, the company reported steep third-quarter losses on loans in Brazil, India and Mexico. It warned that deteriorating conditions in Colombia, Greece, Italy, Japan and Spain may signal rising consumer defaults.

Citigroup does business in 106 countries. US-based JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Bank of America (BAC) and Wells Fargo have bigger market caps than Citigroup, but have little or no international retail operations. That may be an advantage during the worldwide economic slowdown.
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