Monday, April 27, 2015

Citizens Bank owner resists sale

Bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland still needs cash

Citizens Bank owner resists sale

Britain's Royal Bank of Scotland has been resisting pressure from British bank regulators to sell its U.S. arm, including Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, in order to raise badly-needed cash.

It's more of the continuing hangover from the 2008 banking crisis, which lenders still need to get past so they can start lending again, instead of selling assets and cutting costs.

RBS lost billions backing British, Irish and American real estate speculators and was bailed out by U.K. taxpayers along with other big British lenders. This past October the U.K. bank resolution agency publicly urged RBS to sell Citizens, but in November RBS chief executive Stephen Hester said the U.S. arm is important to the company's future and he'd rather not sell.  Bloomberg story here, London Telegraph story here.

But RBS has had a tough time selling some of the assets it would prefer to unload, including excess bank branches in Britain's slow-growing home market.

FDIC data shows Citizens, which owns the former PSFS and Girard Bank branches in the Philadelphia area, has closed a net 21 of its 400 former branches branches in Pennsylvania over the past five years.

Citizens' branch deposits in the eight-county Philadelphia area -- not counting its regional headquarters on Market Street -- are flat at $11 billion over the same period, while deposits have risen at rivals Wells Fargo (ex-PNB and First Pennsylvania), TD (Commerce), PNC (Provident), and Bank of America. 

Citizens isn't the only locally-active bank whose fate rests at least partly with European regulators. Dutch-Belgian banking giant ING Group was similarly obliged to sell its fast-growing, Wilmington-based deposit and loan arm, ING Direct Bank, to Virginia-based Capital One Corp., so it could recapitalize after a government bailout.  Capital One hopes to mine ING's $90 billion deposit base for new consumer and business borrowers.

About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

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