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Citigroup waits to pounce in Japan

It has been more than seven months since Bank of America bought FleetBoston, and almost six since JPMorgan Chase and Bank One announced their deal. But still Citigroup hasn?t pounced, confounding those who were sure that the world?s largest bank would feel compelled to join the rush to build a national retail franchise in its home market.

Too many, it seems, were so deafened by the noise about US bank mergers that they didn?t hear what Citigroup was saying. As one senior Citigrouper told Euromoney at the start of the year, the US is not where the bank?s executives think the best acquisitions are to be had. ?The best growth prospects come from outside the US, and that?s where you?ll be more likely to see us make a move.?

For a bank with operations in 100 countries, that doesn?t offer much of a guide to Citi?s next move. But some investors and analysts now think enough hints have been dropped for them to have a pretty good idea of where its next big acquisition will be: Japan.

Getting investors comfortable

Sir Deryck Maughan, CEO of Citigroup International, discussed it at an investor meeting in Mexico City last month organized by UBS?s US financial services analyst Glenn Schorr.

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