Seeking to expand its presence in areas formerly behind the Iron Curtain, Citicorp's German consumer bank will open two more branches in the eastern part of the country.

The two branches of Citibank Privatekunden AG will be opened next year in Gera and Cottbus, towns in the former East Germany.

Since 1993, Citicorp has opened 21 branches in formerly Communist regions of the country, including a branch in Magdeburg last November. The bank has 308 branches in 200 cities across Germany.

Citicorp may open more branches but has notset a total or timetable, a bank spokesman said.

In a related move, Citibank Privatekunden this month began keeping all its German branches open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays and until 5 p.m. Fridays. Wednesday hours remain 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Citibank spokesman said the move came after a company study and a German government decision last November to let retail businesses stay open later.

Until last year, Germany strictly regulated all retail business hours despite long-standing protests from consumers and stores. According to the Citibank study, about 40% of its customers needed to do their banking between 4 and 6 p.m.

Banking hours had previously varied from branch to branch and from city to city, with most branches closing at 3 p.m. The bank decided not to change its Wednesday hours after finding that few German consumers do business Wednesday afternoons. Customers needing business services when branches are closed can use the bank's automated teller machines or 24-hour telephone banking network or can make transactions via personal computer, the spokesman said.

Citicorp entered retail banking in Germany in 1976 when it acquired a consumer finance company. Since then, it has aggressively targeted a young, professional clientele by marketing credit cards, loans, and telephone and personal computer banking.

Also this year, it extended to 10 p.m. its hours for electronic buying of stocks and options in German blue-chip companies.

At yearend, Citicorp had $17 billion of assets in Germany, of which $10 billion belonged to the consumer bank, including $7.4 billion of loans. The balance belonged to Citibank AG, its German corporate banking unit.

Net income at Citicorp's consumer banking unit was slightly more than $140 million last year, and earnings at Citicorp AG were about $40.5 million.

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