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Citi Plans to Return to Saudi Arabia, Applies for License

Zacks Equity Research

In order to conduct business again in Saudi Arabia, Citigroup Inc. C has applied for a banking license with the Capital Market Authority (CMA). The move comes as scope for investment is opening up in that nation.

Particularly, the government of Saudi Arabia has been taking steps to revive the domestic economy, making efforts to broaden the horizon and diversify the economy away from oil under its National Transformation Plan.  Also, in Jun 2015, the Saudi economy opened up for Foreign Direct Investments.

Moreover, the government plans to list about 5% of oil giant, Saudi Aramco as an initial public offering, which is expected to help raise almost $100 billion.

Notably, Citigroup had operations in Saudi Arabia 13 years ago. However, in order to focus on countries where it could have majority stake, the company sold its interest in Samba Financial Group to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund for $760 million. This made the company loose its key banking license for the region.   

However, Saudi Arabia is not the only nation where Citigroup plans to expand. In fact, after completing 50 years of service in South Korea, the company plans to double its wealth management assets to around $6 billion by 2020 in the country. It seeks to set up new offices and invest in digital technology in order to attract new customers.

Our Viewpoint

We expect to see a boost in Citigroup’s activities if it acquires the license. Also, the company has been making concerted efforts to streamline operations internationally and manage expenses.

Recently, the company launched ‘enhanced retail segmentation strategy’ in North America consumer banking and continues to invest in the branded cards. All these initiatives are expected to improve Citigroup’s profitability and operational efficiency, going forward.

Over the past one year, shares of Citigroup returned 41.9% compared with 37.0% gain of the Zacks categorized Banks - Major Regional industry.

Currently, Citigroup holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

Some other favorably ranked financial stocks include 1st Constitution Bancorp FCCY, ServisFirst Bancshares, Inc. SFBS and DBS Group Holdings Ltd. DBSDY. All three stocks sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

1st Constitution’s shares have gained 41.3%, over the past one year. Also, its earnings estimates for the current year have been revised upward by 4.5%, over the last 60 days.

ServisFirst’s earnings estimates for 2017 witnessed a 6.3% upward revision, over the past 60 days. Its shares also gained 61.6% in the last one-year period.

DBS Group witnessed a 4.0% upward earnings estimate revision for current year over the last 30 days. Its shares returned 20.0% over the last one year.

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