Monday, April 4, 2011

Silver hits new high at Rs 57,000 on global cues; gold up by Rs 55.

Surpassing all previous records, silver rose to a new peak today by rising Rs 600 to Rs 57000 per kg on heavy buying by stockists and speculators amid, a firming global trend. Gold, also, surged Rs 55 to Rs 21,120 per 10 grams.

Traders said heavy buying by stockists and jewellers to meet the 'Navratra' festival demand and reports of a rising trend in global markets mainly took silver prices to a record level.

Beginning of Navratra, considered to be an auspicious week for making new purchases, particularly silver coins, also fuelled the uptrend, they said.

In global markets, silver rose by 1.32 per cent to $38.33 an ounce and gold by $5.10 to $1,434 an ounce in Asia.

On the domestic front, silver surged Rs 600 to an all-time high of Rs 57,000 per kg and silver weekly delivery jumped up by Rs 655 to Rs 56,575 per kg.

Silver coins sky-rocketted by Rs 1,000 to Rs 62,500 for buying and Rs 63,000 for selling of 100 pieces on hectic demand.

Similarly, gold of 99.9 and 99.5 per cent purity recovered by Rs 55 each to Rs 21,120 and Rs 21,000 per 10 grams, respectively. Sovereigns remained steady at Rs 17,500 per piece of eight grams in restricted trade.

Citigroup May Invest $2 Billion in Asia Consumer Banking

Citigroup May Invest $2 Billion in Asia Consumer Banking  

Citigroup Inc. (C) may invest as much as $2 billion in its Asian consumer banking unit in the next three years as the U.S. lender overhauls branches and boosts service offerings to the region’s growing middle class.
Citigroup plans to invest $3 billion to $4 billion in its consumer operations, mainly in emerging markets, over the next two to three years, Manuel Medina-Mora, head of consumer banking for the Americas, said on March 24. About half of that amount will probably go to Asia, a person with knowledge of the matter said, declining to be identified as the breakdown isn’t public.

Citigroup, HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) and Standard Chartered Plc (STAN) are among global banks expanding in Asia, where economic growth and wealth creation are outpacing the U.S. and Europe. The Asian consumer banking unit boosted income 52 percent to $2.17 billion last year, making it Citigroup’s second-biggest earner.

“The opportunity is very significant,” Jonathan Larsen, Citigroup’s head of consumer banking for the Asia-Pacific region, said in an April 1 interview. “I think the broad trend will continue, i.e. the growth of the middle class, the increase in concentration of affluent, the increase in growth of consumption.”
Larsen said Asia will get a “significant” portion of the planned consumer-banking investment worldwide. He declined to provide a specific amount. Asia accounted for 46 percent of Citigroup’s consumer-banking income last year.

Smart Branches

The New York-based bank today announced measures to target what it calls Asia’s “emerging affluent” people -- those with net worth of $10,000 to $100,000. Its Citibank consumer unit caters to people with up to $150,000 of net worth. Clients with $150,000 to $1 million of net assets have access to the bank’s Citigold program.

Asia has about 500 million people with net worth of $10,000 to $100,000, and financial-services revenue from that group is forecast to grow as much as 15 percent a year in most countries, Citigroup said in a press release today, citing estimates by Credit Suisse Group AG and McKinsey & Co.
As part of the plan, Citigroup has expanded opening hours at branches in markets including Hong Kong, and will introduce round-the-clock phone banking service and convert more outlets to what it calls “smart branches” featuring teleconferencing equipment and staff using Apple Inc. (AAPL) iPads to display Citigroup’s online services.

“What we are trying to do is to re-engineer the customer experience,” Larsen said. “We’ve tried to make it a much more interactive experience.”

Airport Outlet

So-called smart branches cost about $1 million each to set up, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Citigroup plans to eventually convert all its 720 outlets in the Asia-Pacific region to smart branches, the person said. It currently operates about 40 of the outlets, suggesting the overhaul could cost almost $700 million.

Citigroup’s profit from Asia rose to $4.6 billion last year, accounting for the largest share of overall earnings, according to Bloomberg data. HSBC and Standard Chartered, both based in London, also got the biggest part of their profits from Asia in 2010.

Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit is targeting developing countries like China, which overtook Japan last year as the second-largest economy after growing almost fourfold over the past decade.
Consumers in developing Asia may spend $32 trillion in 2030, compared with $4.3 trillion at the end of 2008, according to the Asian Development Bank. Lenders are tapping into that growth by offering credit cards, loans and wealth management services to the region’s swelling middle class.

Citigroup aims to triple the size of its branch network in China to about 100 outlets within three years, Stephen Bird, co- CEO for the Asia-Pacific region, said Dec. 7. The company on March 31 said it opened an outlet in the airport of Chongqing, a city in southern China. It was Citigroup’s first full-service outlet at an airport, according to a press release.