While other banks are getting out of the corporate trust business, Citicorp said it has made a commitment to keep its operation.
Robert A. McCormack, Citicorp's executive vice president for global relationship banking, sent a memorandum to employees last month telling them the company is rededicating itself to expanding its corporate trust business.
The memo came after months of speculation that Citicorp was considering a sale of the unit. That speculation was fueled when Citicorp began a review of it.
"We did review the corporate agency and trust business and decided that it was a very important piece to our overall securities processing business and that it was something we would like to continue to invest in," said Amy Dates, a Citicorp spokeswoman.
Ms. Dates would not confirm reports that Bankers Trust New York Corp. had been a potential buyer. State Street Corp., which bought a municipal debt administration business from Citicorp in 1993, was also believed to be a potential buyer.
Bankers Trust refused to comment on the matter, and State Street officials could not be reached.
Corporate trust, the back-office processing of securities and investments, is offered as a service to companies in the hope that they will do other business with the bank, analysts said.
But corporate trust requires massive data processing capabilities. It has narrow margins and relies on scale to be profitable.
Many of the nation's largest banking companies have chosen in the last year to leave the business. Barnett Banks Inc., J.P. Morgan & Co., and NationsBank Corp., for example, all sold their corporate trust units to Bank of New York Co.
Citicorp ranks among the top 10 banks in corporate trust, analysts said. But the three largest-Bank of New York, State Street, and Chase Manhattan Corp.-dominate the field.
Those three banks have been bulking up, either through acquisition, as Bank of New York and State Street have done, or by intense marketing efforts, as Chase has done. Bankers Trust has also been looking to expand its corporate trust business through acquisition, analysts said.
Banks that are not among the largest in the business have chosen to sell rather than invest in the technology they would need, they said.
But analysts also said it would be surprising for Citicorp to sell its business. "The businesses that Citi does well in are all on the corporate side of the bank," said Richard X. Bove, an analyst at Raymond James Associates.
Mr. Bove speculated that Citicorp may have considered a sale to advance general corporate goals of reducing operating expenses.
A number of Wall Street analysts have been anticipating the announcement this fall of a major restructuring at Citicorp, which would include chargeoffs of $500 million to $1.5 billion.
"If the talk" of a restructuring "becomes reality, you should expect to see certain services eliminated," said Mr. Bove. "The businesses that are processing in nature are likely to be the first to go because that's probably where the cost savings are."