ECONOMY

Citibank to close 31 local branches

Citibank plans to shut down almost half of its branches in Greece after seeing business drop sharply due to the recession. The US lender informed staff members that it will close 31 of its 72 branches in Greece in the coming days. Citibank will provide a voluntary redundancy program for employees that cannot be absorbed into the branches it will keep operating or other administrative positions. Financial website euro2day.gr cited a senior Citibank official as saying that the decision was made due to the drop in business and the group’s broader strategy. Meanwhile, the reporting season for lenders continues today, with Piraeus Bank scheduled to report figures before the start of trade on the Athens bourse. Piraeus Bank is expected to post a sharp profit drop for the first nine months of the year, hurt by rising loan-loss provisions amid a severe recession. According to a Reuters poll, net profit was seen, on average, at 9.7 million euros with estimates ranging from 4 million to 14.6 million. Provisions are seen as rising 26 percent year-on-year to 417.2 million euros, offsetting higher income from lending, which is expected to have risen 9.1 percent to 886.4 million. Shares of Piraeus, which operates across the eastern Mediterranean, are down 63 percent this year, underperforming the broader Greek market’s 34 percent decline. Alpha Bank set the tone for recession-hit Greece’s lenders on Tuesday when it reported that a one-off tax, rising provisions and weaker loan growth caused a sharp fall in nine-month net profit, though it marginally beat expectations.