NEW YORK -- Credit card returns at Citicorp are likely to fall in the next few years, according to John S. Reed, the company's chairman and chief executive officer.

Speaking at a Merrill Lynch conference here, Mr. Reed said the 50% return on equity that Citicorp currently reaps from its card business is likely to fall to the "high 20s" in a couple of years. The banking company now earns $32 a year after-tax, per cardholder, while its original objective was to earn $20 per cardholder a year, Mr. Reed said.

By the end of 1997, Citicorp's international card business will account for 30% of the company's card profits, he added.

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