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Citibank ready to open portal for business

Citibank plans to give the public its first peek at its new financial services portal as early as next week.

Citibank plans to give the public its first peek at its new financial services portal as early as next week.

Citibank spokesman Mark Rodgers said the site, under the Citifi.com domain name, has been in closed testing. While the debut is "pretty much a plain-vanilla version," an expanded portal is expected to offer a full range of financial services by next year, Rodgers said.

Citibank already offers online banking through its Web site. However, analysts expect that the new portal will eventually allow customers to do more than just pay bills and get their latest account balances online. Services could include mortgages and financial information, including news.

Citibank is also expected to tie credit cards into its portal offerings, as it holds about 20 percent of that market in North America.

"I would expect that they are going to want to include the best of all they've seen out there on the Web," said Michael Ancell, a financial analyst who covers Citibank at Edward Jones. "I think it's going to be pretty comprehensive."

But Rodgers said a more robust version of Citifi.com--and an accompanying media blitz--probably won't come until the beginning of the new year. After the public launch, Citibank's technology efforts will be directed toward tackling Y2K-related computer concerns, he said.

Citibank's portal will compete with online financial offerings from traditional and Internet-only players. In June, BankOne introduced its new Wingspanbank.com site, which provides many of the services that Citifi.com is expected to offer. On Wednesday, Wells Fargo outlined its Internet strategy, which will also include non-traditional banking services.

In its latest quarterly statement, Citibank parent Citigroup broke out the expenses for e-Citi, the division responsible for developing the company's e-commerce efforts.

In the three months ended June 30, e-Citi had a net loss of $44 million on $55 million in revenue. In the same quarter last year, e-Citi lost $37 million on $34 million in revenue. Operating expenses jumped from $94 million to $128 million, year to year.

For the six months ended June 30, e-Citi lost $80 million on $109 million in revenue. During the same period last year, the division lost $67 million on $64 million in revenue.