National Australia Bank, Australia's top lender by assets, is in talks to buy Citigroup's Australian retail broking business to expand back into stockbroking, the Australian Financial Review reported on Wednesday.
Without citing sources, the business daily said the chief executive of NAB's local operations, Ahmed Fahour, was leading talks to buy Citi Smith Barney Australia, a move that would make NAB one of Australia's largest providers of full-service stockbroking.
NAB and Citi declined to comment on what they called market rumor and speculation. A Citi spokeswoman in Sydney, Maggie Grady, would not comment on whether the Citi Smith Barney Australia was up for sale.
The business made a net profit of A$10.4 million (US$9.6 million) in 2006 on revenue of A$124.5 million.
The newspaper said other companies had approached Citigroup, including Bell Financial, which is backed by UBS.
NAB closed its private client business 17 years ago.
Citigroup is going to fold its Smith Barney operations in Hong Kong and Singapore into its private banking division for the Asia-Pacific region, but is not doing the same in Australia, where its private banking arm is very small, the newspaper said.