Citigroup Inc., the biggest U.S. credit card lender, said it is looking for partners in Hong Kong to grab a bigger share of the market.

"There are 31 card issuers in Hong Kong. Some of the smaller players are probably starting to think, because it's such an expensive business, it may make sense to have partners," Neil Gardner, Citigroup's director of cards in the city, told reporters at a briefing Wednesday.

In Hong Kong, issuers have to compete for 3.5 million people eligible to apply for credit cards who already hold as many as 12 million cards, Mr. Gardner said. Citigroup is trying to boost revenues from the business outside North America, where net income from the division fell 55% in the first half, according to an Aug. 1 regulatory filing.

Job losses and higher food and gasoline prices have squeezed consumers, causing more of them to fall behind on bills. The drop in profit from North America dragged overall net income at the division 26% lower, to $1.7 billion, despite net income increases of 63% in Latin America and 10% in Asia, the filing said.

Though fewer U.S. credit cardholders are paying their bills, the industry in "Asian markets, with the exception of India, is holding up pretty well," Ed Eger, Citigroup's head of international credit cards, said Wednesday.

In China, Citigroup has applied to regulators to issue credit cards, said Surath Chatterjee, its head of card products in the Asia-Pacific region. It is partnering with Guangdong Development Bank Co. and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Co. to issue cards. Citigroup owns 3.8% of Shanghai Pudong Development Bank and 86% of Guangdong Development Bank with a group of investors.

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