What to do with Providence-based Citizens has been an ongoing source of friction between executives at its part-nationalized parent company, Royal Bank of Scotland in the U.K., and the British government that owns 81% of RBS after a 2008 bailout.
When we last checked in on the Citizens saga in June, the British finance minister – Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne – was publicly and loudly urging the next CEO of RBS to sell off the U.S. lender rather than just float a 25% stake in a public offering, currently planned for 2014 or 2015.
Now The Times of London, citing anonymous sources, is reporting that Citizens’ on-again/off-again suitor TD Bank of Canada has become increasingly interested in purchasing the local lender since the summer. The Times estimates Citizens is currently worth about £8 billion ($12.8 billion). RBS bought Citizens in 1988.
Britain’s finance minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne, delivered his closely watched annual Mansion House Speech to bankers in London on Wednesday night, and he left no doubt that he and the rest of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet want the Royal Bank of Scotland to sell off Providence-based Citizens altogether.
UK Financial Investments, the company created to manage taxpayers’ stake in RBS and other bailed-out banks, has “made it clear that the government has no strategic interest in RBS owning one of the largest regional banks in the U.S. – and the method of exit from Citizens must achieve maximum value for all shareholders,” Osbourne declared in the speech.
While it was hardly a secret that Osbourne wants RBS to get rid of Citizens, the chancellor’s decision to make the demand publicly will ratchet up the pressure on the bank’s board, which so far has only planned to float a 25% stake in an IPO next year.
According to multiple reports published Tuesday, Royal Bank of Scotland is preparing to install its Chief Financial Officer Bruce Van Saun as the new CEO of Providence-based Citizens, where he would replace Ellen Alemany. The Financial Times reports Alemany “is expected to retire.”
Van Saun is a native of Pennsylvania who joined RBS in 2009 after a lengthy tenure at what is now Bank of New York Mellon. He would take over as RBS prepares to sell a 25% ownership stake in Citizens through an initial public offering, yielding to pressure from U.K. regulators.
The Royal Bank of Scotland, which bought Citizens in 1988, is expected to unveil plans to sell 15% to 25% of its stake in the local bank through an initial public offering (IPO). It would be yet another move by CEO Stephen Hester to shore up RBS, which is majority owned by British taxpayers after the U.K. government spent $68.9 billion bailing it out in 2008-09.
What does all this mean for Citizens and its presence in Providence? In the short term, probably not much. Over the long term, it likely depends on whether Citizens gets eaten by a bigger bank – and how much of the bank’s operations are still here in the first place.
The reasons RBS is planning the IPO – quite possibly despite CEO Hester’s reservations – are clear enough.
Other news outlets are adding a bit more context to last night’s Daily Telegraph scoop about RBS planning to float a minority stake in Citizens Financial Group as a first step toward selling the Providence-based bank.
Breaking news tonight out of London. Philip Aldrick and Helia Ebrahimi report for The Daily Telegraph:
Royal Bank of Scotland will next week reveal plans to float its US retail bank, Citizens, in a deal expected to raise more than £8bn for the state-backed lender. …
The potential initial public offering (IPO) would be one of the largest ever spin-outs from a UK bank ….
However, no bankers have been appointed and the process is likely to take around two years to complete.
On Thursday, RBS is expected to outline plans to initially sell a small stake in Citizens, of about 25%, and to keep open its options for future disposals. Bank insiders also hope that the prospect of a float could draw out prospective bidders willing to pay a full price for the business, although RBS will not run a formal “dual track” process. Canada’s TD Bank is one likely suitor.
Citizens’ future has been in question ever since U.K.-based RBS, which bought Citizens in 1988, was rescued by the British government in the fall of 2008 at the height of the financial crisis. RBS remains 82% owned by British taxpayers. The speculation has picked up steam since last summer’s New York Post report that TD Bank had discussed Citizens with RBS and subsequent stories about British regulators pressuring RBS to sell.
Citizens is the second-largest bank in Rhode Island by deposits, with a 21% market share and $9.6 billion in local assets, according to FDIC data as of June 30, 2012. TD Bank – which expanded to Rhode Island in 2010 – had a 0.29% market share and $130 million in assets at the same time, nearly double from a year earlier. Buying Citizens would be a quick way for TD to expand its presence in Northeastern retail banking.
For Rhode Island, one of the biggest questions is how Citizens’ local presence would be impacted if the bank was merged with another institution such as TD: Citizens was Rhode Island’s second-biggest for-profit employer as of 2011, according to the state, behind only CVS Caremark.
• Related: Full coverage of a possible Citizens Financial Group sale (Nov. 28 to Aug. 6)
The new name is RBS Citizens Financial Group, which tacks on the initials of Citizens’ British parent company, Royal Bank of Scotland Group. The change was made earlier this year “to create better alignment with our brands,” Citizen spokesman Jim Hughes told WPRI.com.
“Our commercial banking division operates under the RBS Citizens brand and we also do business in auto lending as RBS Citizens,” Hughes said. “Citizens Bank and Charter One remain our brands for consumer and small-business banking.”
RBS bought Citizens in 1988 and is now under pressure from British regulators to sell the profitable American division as it tries to recover from the financial crisis.
• Related: Full coverage of a possible Citizens Financial Group sale (Nov. 28 to Aug. 6)
Citizens-is-for-sale rumors have quieted down since Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Stephen Hester played down the possibility on Nov. 2, but business columnist David Milstead still offered this in The (Toronto) Globe and Mail:
Toronto-Dominion Bank, which has already bulked up its U.S. business, is said to be a logical buyer for RBS Citizens Bank, a massive franchise that would add considerable heft to its south-of-the-border foray.
Whether this will prove true — it is, after all, at the rumour and speculation stage — it prompts a couple of questions: One, is TD already too American for investors who like their Canadian banks to be Canadian? And, two, is eschewing TD on that basis actually a good idea for Canadian investors?
The answer to the first question is probably yes. The answer to the second is a little more complicated. …
If TD can pick up Citizens Bank at a bargain price, and ride the rebound of the U.S. banking sector, shareholders should see quite a bit of benefit. But Canadians who prefer the safer, slower Canadian banks would be well-advised to consider whether TD fits in with their portfolios anymore, Citizens Bank deal or no.
• Related: RBS CEO downplays Citizens sale likelihood, won’t rule it out (Nov. 2)
“I think it will happen in the next year or two. It makes sense for business reasons and timing,” Barua told Reuters in a new article that provides the clearest, most detailed assessment so far on when and why RBS is likely to sell off the Providence-based lender.
Citing a Credit Suisse analysis, Reuters reporters Steve Slater and Matt Scuffham say a potential deal for Citizens could net RBS anywhere from $8.8 billion to $13.6 billion.
And while Slater and Schffham echo the conventional wisdom that TD Bank is the most likely buyer, they offer a long list of other potential suitors: PNC, U.S. Bancorp, Mitsubishi UFJ and Itau Unibano. Another option would be Citizens getting split up between TD and another regional lender such as M&T Bank, Fifth-Third, Huntington or KeyCorp.
• Related: Full coverage of a possible Citizens Financial Group sale (Nov. 5 to Aug. 6)
The view from Canada on a TD Bank purchase of Citizens Bank. Jonathan Ratner writes for Financial Post:
“In fact, combining the branch networks and deposit shares confirms the reasonably higher degree of overlay,” [Robert Sedran, an analyst at CIBC World Markets] told clients. “Even after all the transactions it has completed in the United States, we would still view this as transformational, as it would vault the bank into a legitimate top five position in terms of deposit market share in the United States, despite not having a national footprint.” …
While the integration risks would be significant and could derail the momentum TD’s platform has already been showing, the biggest hurdle for this acquisition would likely be the price tag. Media reports peg the value of Citizens Bank at between US$12-billion and US$16-billion.
“The financing alone could be a deal breaker, absent some level of creativity,” Mr. Sedran said, suggesting a separately-traded U.S. subsidiary could be spun off to allow the bank to more effectively tap the U.S. market for equity.
• Related: RBS CEO downplays Citizens sale likelihoood, won’t rule it out (Nov. 2)
RBS CEO Stephen Hester was circumspect in his comments about Providence-based Citizens on Friday after RBS announced it lost $2.2 billion during the three months ended Sept. 30. It was the first time Hester has spoken out since news surfaced that British regulators are pressing him to consider selling Citizens.
“I’ve never ruled anything out and I’m not going to start ruling it out now,” Hester said, acknowledging there “may be a day” when selling Citizens would benefit RBS shareholders, according to various published reports.
But Hester suggested now is not the time, repeating RBS executives’ mantra that Citizens is a “core” part of the bank’s operations, and that RBS has a “cogent and coherent strategy” which is partly “to not have all its eggs in one geographic basket.”
“It’s unlikely that today is the best time to sell financial services assets,” Hester said.
If Royal Bank of Scotland is forced to sell off Providence-based Citizens Financial Group, the majority of experts think the most likely buyer would be Canada’s TD Bank Group. But not everyone agrees with the conventional wisdom.
Richard Bove, the influential bank analyst at Rochdale Securities, thinks the top candidate is Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group, Patty Tascarella reports for the Pittsburgh Business Times:
“I think they’re No. 1, top of the list without any question,” Bove said. “If you look at mergers, the ones that work the best are in-market. PNC’s move into the southeast is high-risk, they’re in a market they aren’t familiar with, they’re pleased with what’s happening there, but if they can buy a bank that’s sitting on top of the same markets they’re in, the economies of scale for a merger of that nature are phenomenal.” …
Gerard Cassidy, a financial analyst at RBC Capital Markets, told the Philadelphia Business Journal that he believes PNC is too consumed with its expanded southeast footprint to contemplate another purchase at this time.
Bove suggested another Canadian financial institution as a potential Citizens acquirer — Montreal-based BMO Financial Group (NYSE: BMO) — which has 1,600 branches, a deposit base of $180 billion and does business in the United States as Chicago-based BMO Harris Group. …
Fifth Third Bancorp, based in Cincinnati, could also be a possibility, Bove added.
Part-nationalized RBS is under growing pressure in Britain to sell Citizens after officials at the Financial Services Authority and taxpayer-backed UK Financial Investments made the suggestion to RBS CEO Stephen Hester. But his management team is strongly resisting the idea.
The official overseeing British taxpayers’ stake in Citizens Financial Group parent Royal Bank of Scotland told parliamentarians on Tuesday he’s pushed RBS executives to shrink the bank and take a closer look at its ownership of Citizens.
“I would confirm that among the strategic issues we have discussed with management are the U.S. operations and the investment bank,” U.K. Financial Investments (UKFI) CEO Jim O’Neill told the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, according to a Reuters report. The British government created UKFI in 2008 to manage taxpayers’ bank stakes.
O’Neill’s comments will add further fuel to the newest round of speculation about whether RBS could soon sell off Providence-based Citizens, which it bought in 1988. Another British official, Andrew Bailey of the Financial Services Authority, has also reportedly urged RBS to sell Citizens.
Analysts estimate RBS could get more than $14 billion by selling Citizens, according to Reuters, but executives at the beleaguered bank have resisted the idea.
A Wall Street Journal article published Monday confirms reports that surfaced in Britain last week about the growing pressure British regulators are placing on RBS to sell Providence-based Citizens. The officials want “to slim down RBS, refocus it on its home market and thicken its capital cushion,” according to the WSJ, which notes British taxpayers still own 81% of the bank after the government was forced to rescue it during the financial crisis.
And not for the first time, speculation about who would buy Citizens is centered on TD Bank of Canada. From the WSJ story:
Analysts and investment bankers say Canada’s TD Bank Group would be the most likely buyer. Through previous acquisitions, the Toronto lender has amassed about 1,300 branches in the U.S. and ranks seventh in total deposits, according to the FDIC. TD Bank lacks a strong presence in some New England states where Citizens dominates. …
Beyond TD Bank, the list of potential buyers is short. Some U.S. regional banks are busy integrating recent deals, and regulators are likely to frown upon large acquisitions by U.S. megabanks. “There’s real regulatory scrutiny of deals,” Mr. Cassidy said.
The dearth of obvious buyers could give RBS ammunition to resist pressure to sell. The U.K. government takes what it calls an “arms’ length” approach to management of its RBS investment, with the independent U.K Financial Investments Ltd. overseeing its stake.
The report says Citizens currently has nearly 1,500 branches in 13 states and ranks as the 17th-largest U.S. bank by deposits, with $75.5 billion as of June 30. Citizens’ market share is 3rd-largest in the Boston metro area and fourth-largest in Cleveland and Albany.
Update: Elsewhere at the WSJ, DealJournal’s David Benoit writes about potential Citizens buyers:
KBW analysts wrote back in August that Citizens would complement TD and “we believe that TD has a track record as a proven integrator and an efficient operator—thus we believe TD could improve Citizens’ profitability meaningfully in a potential acquisition.” Still, KBW also expected that TD would need to divest some assets in the U.S. to get the deal done.
In the same note, KBW also ruled out U.S. buyers because capable ones would likely run into deposit cap regulations. And the smaller regional banks that would remain under the maximum deposit threshold have been quite wary of deals.
• Related: Reports: UK regulators pushing RBS to sell RI’s Citizens Bank (Oct. 18)
The British outlet Sky News reported Tuesday that RBS’s chief regulator, Andrew Bailey of the Financial Services Authority, sent a letter last week to RBS CEO Stephen Hester urging him to consider selling Providence-based Citizens, suggesting it would make RBS stronger ahead of the British government’s expected sale of taxpayers’ stake in the bank.
“FSA insiders said that Mr Bailey told Mr Hester that selling Citizens, its US banking arm, and radically reducing the size of [RBS's] global banking and markets operation could be helpful in bolstering RBS’s capital position,” Mark Kleinman, Sky News’ City of London editor, wrote Tuesday.
“Some RBS insiders questioned whether selling Citizens at current market valuations would achieve the FSA’s objective of improving its capital position,” Kleinman wrote. Both Sky and The Guardian cited a Shore Capital analysis suggesting “a reasonable price” that RBS could accept for Citizens would be above about $9.7 billion.
“Citizens is a core franchise in a very attractive geography,” Bruce Van Saun, RBS’s group finance director of the Scottish bank, said at an investors conference last week, according to a Reuters story. “We have nothing big left to sell.”
Reuters reports, citing Van Saun, that Citizens’ return on equity this has year has been a “relatively weak” 8%, which has disappointed its parent bank in London. But he predicted that metric will reach 12% to 14% within a few years and said Citizens remains well-positioned in the U.S. market.
“We’re patient,” Van Saun said. “I think we are doing our shareholders a good turn to keep Citizens in the portfolio.” Citizens’ future as part of RBS has been in doubt ever since the bank was rescued by the British government at the height of the 2008 financial crisis; it remains majority-owned by U.K. taxpayers.
Citizens was the second-largest bank in Rhode Island by deposits as of June 30, 2011, with a 22% market share and $10 billion in local assets, according to FDIC data. RBS bought Citizens in 1988. The Projo’s John Kostrzewa has more here.
• Related: Big Brazilian bank Itau named a Citizens suitor; rumors heat up (Aug. 8)
With its parent company Royal Bank of Scotland still reeling from its 2008 near-death experience and the Libor scandal, rumors are swirling that RBS may soon sell off Providence-based Citizens to raise some much-needed cash. RBS is 82% owned by British taxpayers.
Canada’s TD Bank has already been cited as a potential buyer of Citizens. Over the weekend a less familiar name emerged: Itau Unibanco Holding, one of Brazil’s largest banks, which The Times of London reported Sunday is mulling an offer. The newspaper cited no sources but said RBS could get more than $15 billion for Citizens.
“RBS is known to have coveted a sale of Citizens for some time but has been unwilling to accept a knock-down price,” The Daily Telegraph’s Philip Aldrick reported Sunday. British authorities “are also understood to be keen for RBS to sell off the US operations to release funds to focus on UK lending.”
The future of Citizens Bank has been a big question mark locally ever since its U.K.-based parent company Royal Bank of Scotland was rescued by the British government in the fall of 2008, at the height of the financial crisis. RBS remains 82% owned by British taxpayers.
Toronto-Dominion, the Canada-based parent of TD Bank, which operates 1,200 branches mostly in the eastern US, has held informal discussions with RBS about its Citizens Bank unit, sources said.
RBS, said sources, has told interested parties it is looking for $14 billion to $16 billion for the bank — while TD is said to be thinking more along the lines of $8 billion to $12 billion.
The talks were held two or three months ago, these sources said, and are not currently active.
However, Toronto-Dominion believes RBS and the British bank’s CEO, Stephen Hester, may be forced to sell Citizens as it comes under greater scrutiny from regulators amid a growing interest-rate rigging scandal linked to the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, sources said.
Citizens is the second-largest bank in Rhode Island by deposits, with a 22% market share and $10 billion in local assets, according to FDIC data as of June 30, 2011. TD Bank – which expanded to Rhode Island just two years ago – is far down the list with $61 million in assets and just 0.14% market share. A Citizens purchase would quickly vault TD into the top ranks of Northeastern retail banks.
And as if RBS didn’t have enough problems, the WSJ reports the bank is now “in talks with U.S. authorities about its compliance with federal money laundering laws and targeted economic sanctions.”
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Citizens Bank is suing former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling personally for more than $2.3 million, alleging he promised to repay money his now-bankrupt video game company 38 Studios borrowed from the bank.
The court documents obtained by WPRI.com in the Citizens suit shed new light on how 38 Studios capitalized on its $75 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan from the R.I. Economic Development Corporation and what happened behind the scenes as the company fell apart last month.
Citizens Financial Group has laid off an unknown number of employees across 12 states including Rhode Island, a bank spokeswoman tells WPRI 12. The bank is Rhode Island’s second-biggest corporate employer, behind only CVS Caremark, and its seventh-largest non-governmnet employer, according to the EDC.
Citizens is owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, which remains 84% owned by the British government after it required a bailout to stay afloat amid the 2008 financial crisis.
• Related: Analysts: RI exports face ‘low risk’ from European recession (Nov. 15)
Behold the power of FOIA. From Bloomberg News:
Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. were the reigning champions of finance in 2006 as home prices peaked, leading the 10 biggest U.S. banks and brokerage firms to their best year ever with $104 billion of profits.
By 2008, the housing market’s collapse forced those companies to take more than six times as much, $669 billion, in emergency loans from the U.S. Federal Reserve. The loans dwarfed the $160 billion in public bailouts the top 10 got from the U.S. Treasury, yet until now the full amounts have remained secret.
Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s unprecedented effort to keep the economy from plunging into depression included lending banks and other companies as much as $1.2 trillion of public money, about the same amount U.S. homeowners currently owe on 6.5 million delinquent and foreclosed mortgages. The largest borrower, Morgan Stanley, got as much as $107.3 billion, while Citigroup took $99.5 billion and Bank of America $91.4 billion, according to a Bloomberg News compilation of data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, months of litigation and an act of Congress.
There’s a Rhode Island connection, as well.
This is cool. A new network of 40,000 help-wanted websites debuted last week, with a twist: They all combine locations and professions with the suffix “.jobs” – as in RhodeIsland.jobs or Nurses.jobs – and employers can post their job openings on them for free.
The idea is to break the stranglehold of Monster and CareerBuilder over online employment listings, according to The Washington Post. The sites are run by the DirectEmployers Association, a nonprofit backed by big companies including Rhode Island’s CVS Caremark and Citizens Financial.
ICANN, the nonprofit that Clinton administration created in the 1990s to manage the Internet address system, gave DirectEmployers the OK to create the new .jobs sites last month over the objections of the established job sites, which – surprise! – lobbied ICANN to protect their lucrative niche:
For-profit competitors vociferously complained to ICANN that the new leeway would harm their brands and business models. …
“Of all the solutions you hear of, this is the one you think has the most viable solution moving forward. This will have a profound effect on the jobs-list industry,” said a senior recruiting executive for a top Fortune 500 technology company, who was not authorized by his bosses to speak publicly. Monster costs about $400 per job. …
[Randy Goldberg, vice president for recruiting for the Hyatt hotel chain,] said the key advantage of the .jobs sites is that employers can directly post all of their openings for free on one universal network of sites, and can ensure that none of those positions have been filled.
I can see why Monster and CareerBuilder – not to mention their newspaper partners – are worried. The new sites are clean and straightforward, not to mention memorably branded. Try RhodeIsland.jobs or Providence.jobs for yourself and see if you agree. The Post says the sites are currently available for every state and any city with 5,000 or more residents, with more to come.
Not every profession gets its own site, though; I typed in “reporter.jobs” and it didn’t exist. Telling, no?
And here’s what I got when I visited CentralFalls.jobs:
I’m surprised that no other news outlets have picked up on the story my pal Bill Hamilton wrote for PBN last week revealing how Providence-based Citizens Bank tapped one of the Federal Reserve’s special lending programs 29 times – to the tune of $117 billion – during the credit crunch. Citizens has since paid the money back, but the central bank wasn’t forced to disclose the information until now.
Nor was Citizens alone; Bank of America, Sovereign Bank, Webster Bank and MetLife Bank all used the Fed’s programs too. Here’s some of what Hamilton reported:
The borrowing was not a sign of financial weakness but a chance to take advantage of a less-costly source of liquidity at a time when the credit squeeze was on, a Citizens Financial Group spokesman insisted last week.
“It was an alternative, cheaper source of funding … that we in turn would use to lend,” spokesman Michael Jones told Providence Business News. …
The largest single loan made to RBS through [the Fed's Term Auction Facility program] was for $10 billion on Oct. 23, 2008, at a 1.11 percent interest rate. It was paid back by Nov. 20, 2008.
The largest amount the bank owed to the Fed at any one time was $18.3 billion, at the height of the financial crisis in March 2009, Jones said.
While foreign-owned banks such as Sovereign and Citizens Financial were barred from participating in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Citizens’ parent, the Royal Bank of Scotland plc, took advantage of the Fed’s loan facilities, according to the central bank’s new disclosures.
That last point is particularly interesting, because it gets at one of the big debates sparked by the Fed’s new disclosures – namely, whether it’s appropriate for the U.S. central bank to be loaning so much money to financial institutions headquartered abroad. (RBS has owned Citizens since 1988.) As Hamilton notes, Congress explicitly barred them from taken part in the infamous TARP program, but the Fed didn’t put similar restrictions in place.
Meanwhile, RBS – which is still 83% owned by the British government after its 2008 bailout – is now hoping to pay cash bonuses to its investment bankers again for the first time since the crisis hit, Bloomberg reports.