Citigroup said Thursday that it would sell its branch network in Canada and align its consumer banking operations there under Primerica Financial Services.
Canada Trust, a $34 billion-asset subsidiary of Toronto-based CT Financial Services Inc., said it would buy the branches and $685 million of Citigroup's retail assets and deposits.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the banks said they hoped to complete the transaction by midsummer.
Citigroup has been reevaluating all of its consumer operations since late 1998. In January the $689.5 billion-asset company said it would exit certain businesses that did not meet profitability targets.
The sale of its Canadian retail network is just the latest example. In April, Citi struck an agreement to sell its automobile lending unit, with $930 million in loans, to New York-based Dime Bancorp. The company has also been selling branches in California.
Citigroup said it would keep its Canadian private banking, affinity banking, corporate and investment banking, and credit card businesses. The bank is also retaining its remote banking facilities and said it plans to introduce its on-line service in Canada next year.
The branches, which serve affluent, predominantly Asian communities, would advance Canada Trust's plans to build its retail network. The bank currently has 429 branches and said it would add 12 more this year. Canada Trust said it would hire the 70 Citibank branch employees affected by the sale.
In a statement Thursday, Edmund Clark, Canada Trust's president and chief executive officer, said the Citi acquisition gave the company a "good head start" on its expansion plans.
Citibank, with aspirations to gather retail customers across the globe, went through years of de novo branch expansions, but many of those have not been profitable, analysts said.
"They went through a period where they opened branches outside the U.S. wherever they got the opportunity, irrespective of the economic potential," said Lawrence Cohn, an analyst at Ryan Beck & Co.
The Canadian sale "indicates a more rational view toward how Citi will carry on its consumer bank," Mr. Cohn said.
Hampered by its sparse branch network-Citibank Canada has three locations in British Columbia and two in Toronto-the company is pinning the growth of its consumer business in Canada on 5,300 Primerica sales representatives.
Primerica, an Atlanta-based subsidiary, employs tens of thousands of independent agents who offer financial planning door-to-door.
Joseph Plumeri, head of Citi's North American branches and Primerica, staged a series of pep rallies earlier this year to sell his branch-based and Primerica sales forces on the idea of cross-selling.
In pilot tests in Atlanta and Las Vegas, Primerica representatives have had some success selling Citi deposit products to customers, the bank said. Mr. Plumeri was not available for comment Thursday.
Using the Primerica sales force "is a more efficient means of delivering retail products than the branches," said Bradley Ball, an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston.
At the same time, Citigroup subsidiary Commercial Credit Corp. has been buying branches from Associates First Capital Corp., an Irving, Tex.-based consumer finance company. In April, Citi agreed to buy 41 Associates branches in Canada.