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Citizens Financial says 'stay tuned' for deal announcements

After a string of acquisitions of investment banking boutiques, a mortgage company and a wealth manager, Citizens Financial Group Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Bruce Van Saun said "stay tuned" for more announcements this year of deals for fee businesses.

Van Saun reiterated that the bank is also interested in additional bank deals that could strengthen its footprint. He said Citizens' deal for a big chunk of HSBC Holdings PLC's consumer business in the U.S. represented a "first step" and was attractive in part because it filled in "geographical holes" by giving the bank a strong physical presence in the New York City area, pushing it further down the Eastern seaboard into Washington, D.C., and establishing a beachhead in South Florida.

Citizens is "open" to bank transactions "that potentially could strengthen the footprint and help our distribution strategy" if they also come at the "right price" and meet other criteria, Van Saun said during a conference call on second-quarter results. Analysts said that the financial terms of the HSBC deal were attractive.

However, Van Saun said that more bank deals are not "a driving desire here" and that Citizens will be "a bit opportunistic." He reiterated that organic growth and acquisitions of fee businesses are higher priorities, calling the deal for the mortgage business in 2018 well-timed.

Van Saun also said he does not expect "any impact at all" on the pending HSBC acquisition from President Joe Biden's executive order calling for more scrutiny of bank deals, in part because the deal is relatively small.