Mexican investors told to buy Citi unit

MEXICO CITY, Mexico: Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Thursday (Friday in Manila) he wanted Mexican investors to buy the local consumer banking business of US giant Citi, which has announced plans to exit.

“We can turn it into something very good if, without authoritarian measures, we manage to Mexicanize this bank,” López Obrador said in a video message posted on social media.

He welcomed an expression of interest in acquiring the business from the controversial businessman Ricardo Salinas Pliego, whose business empire includes another bank and a television network.

Other potential buyers included the billionaire tycoon Carlos Slim — Mexico’s richest man — and Carlos Hank Gonzalez, who runs the Mexican bank Banorte, he said.

“Of course, this does not mean preventing foreigners from participating,” added López Obrador, who has vowed to overhaul Mexico’s “neoliberal” economic model.

“We’re not closed. We’re not chauvinists. We’re not against foreigners, but we would like this bank to be Mexicanized,” he said.

Citi said on Tuesday that it planned to cease operations in Mexico for consumer, small business and middle-market customers in line with similar moves in other overseas markets.

It will maintain an institutional client business in the country to provide financial advisory and private banking services.

The businesses Citi is shedding in Mexico — where it operates under the Citibanamex brand — accounted for $3.5 billion in revenues and $1.2 billion in pre-tax earnings through the first three quarters of 2021.

It is the third-largest private bank in Mexico, behind Spain’s BBVA and Santander.