CIT Unveils ‘Middle-Market Bank’ Strategy

The parent of CIT Bank will part with its commercial-air unit as it pivots toward its core commercial lending and leasing businesses.
Katie Kuehner-HebertMarch 24, 2016

CIT Group is planning to sell or spin off its $11 billion commercial-air business as part of a turnaround strategy aimed at focusing the company on domestic banking.

The parent of CIT Bank expects to complete the “separation” of the commercial-air unit by the end of the year. It is simultaneously pursuing both a sale and a spin-off of the business, which manages a fleet of more than 350 aircraft.

“The CIT board of directors and management team have been conducting a strategic review of our businesses and are taking decisive actions to chart a clear path forward to drive value for shareholders,” incoming chief executive Ellen R. Alemany said in a news release.

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CIT’s goal is to become a “national middle market bank.” In August, it completed the $3.4-billion purchase of OneWest Bank, a deal that it has predicted would boost its banking services for small and middle market businesses.

The company also said Wednesday it would achieve a 10% return on shareholder equity by 2018 by, among other things,  reducing operating expenses by $125 million. The cuts could come from from automation, eliminating redundant jobs and using real estate more wisely, The Wall Street Journal said.

As far as the commercial-air business, CIT plans to start a formal auction process for buyers in the second quarter. The company said it has had some preliminary talks about a sale and has started to enter into nondisclosure agreements with unspecified potential buyers.

CIT shares, though, fell more than 4% to close at $33.23 in trading Wednesday as investors reacted coolly to the turnaround plan. The stock is now down more than 16% since the start of the year, compared with a roughly 10% decline for the KBW Nasdaq bank stock index.

CIT Bank has more than $30 billion in deposits and more than $40 billion in assets. The company also provides equipment financing and leasing to the transportation sector.