Indian private lender Axis Bank is leading the race to acquire Citi’s consumer operations in the country, Reuters has reported citing two sources.

Valued at around $1.5bn, the deal is expected to happen this month, they said.

Kotak Mahindra Bank is also looking to buy the assets but is behind Axis Bank as it has submitted a lower bid, they added.

Analysts at ICICI Direct feel that the deal, if materialised, will bolster Axis Bank’s mortgage and high-end credit card business in the country.

It will also help Axis Bank expand its footprint in the country and increase penetration.

Citi’s Indian retail operations cater to over 2.5 million customers.

The US banking giant holds nearly 4% of India’s credit card market. As of October 2021, it had 1.2 million bank accounts and 2.58 million credit card accounts.

According to the Reserve Bank of India, Axis is the fourth largest credit card issuer in the country.

Citi is closing retail operations in 13 markets across the Asia Pacific and EMEA to focus on investment banking.

Over time, the closure is expected to release nearly $7bn of allocated tangible common equity.

As part of the business restructuring, last week, Citi reached an agreement with Singapore’s United Overseas Bank to offload its retail operations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Earlier last week, Citi decided to close its consumer, small business and middle-market banking operations in Mexico.