Citi Unit Sale Sparks Bidding War: Report

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Citigroup ( C) appears to have sparked a bidding war by putting its U.S. consumer lending business on the chopping block, with big guns in the private-equity and banking world reportedly interested in buying the business.

According to Bloomberg, no less than four teams are bidding for the business - once known as CitiFinancial and now rebranded as OneMain Financial - which has about $13 billion in assets.

According to the report, one group interested in making a bid consits of BlackRock ( BLK), KKR ( KKR) and Warburg Pincus. That group is considering including Banco Santander ( STD) as well. In an interview on Bloomberg TV, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said that if his firm made a bid for OneMain, "it would be on behalf of clients, not for our balance sheet."

Another group of interested suitors is reportedly being led by Brysam Global Partners, a private equity shop headed by former Citi President and AIG ( AIG) CEO Robert Willumstad. That group also includes Blackstone ( BX), Carlyle Group, Thomas H. Lee Partners and WL Ross & Co., according to Bloomberg.

Separately, private-equity competitors Apollo Management and J.C. Flowers & Co. are considering a bid, the news agency said. A fourth bidding group reportedly includes Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and Toronto-based Onex Corp. ( OCX).

Bloomberg cited anonymous sources and said spokespeople for Citi, BlackRock and Santander would not comment. Citi is trying to get at least $13 billion for the business, with a deadline set for next week, according to the report.

Citi is selling the business, which caters to low-income and subprime consumers, because it caused tremendous losses during the crisis and doesn't fit into its strategy going forward. Other big financial firms, including Wells Fargo ( WFC), JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), Bank of America ( BAC) and AIG, exited their similar lending business in recent years as well. AIG sold its consumer lending business, known as American General Finance, to Fortress Investment Group ( FIG) last year.

>>>Read More: What Wells Fargo's Move Really Means

-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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