Citigroup Inc. has whittled down the field of potential buyers of one of its Japanese units, Nikko Asset Management, to three companies, people familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

The bidders for the asset management unit are two Japanese companies, the insurer T&D Holdings Inc. and the trust bank Sumitomo Trust and Banking Co. Ltd., as well as Bank of New York Mellon Corp., they said.

Citigroup hopes the sale will raise more than $1 billion — a mark already topped in the bidding — according to the people knowledgeable about the process.

The bidding is in a third round, and selection of a preferred bidder is expected within weeks, one of the people said.

Pursuit of Nikko Asset Management by foreign companies and Japanese players alike reflect how both are keen to help Japanese households manage their $15 trillion of assets, one of the largest pools of wealth in the world.

Nikko Asset Management is Japan's third-biggest asset manager. But negotiations have been complicated by Citigroup's earlier sale of another Japanese asset, Nikko Cordial Securities, to Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc.

Nikko Cordial is the largest distributor of Nikko Asset Management's products.

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