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Citigroup to shed assets over 3 years

Bank aims to sell as much as $500 billion in holdings and focus on global banking.

May 10, 2008|From the Associated Press

NEW YORK — Citigroup Inc.'s new chief executive, Vikram Pandit, plans to stick with a global banking model after months of intense review -- but only after shrinking the company by about one-fifth.

The three-year game plan, revealed Friday, includes getting rid of more businesses, mortgages, real estate operations and jobs.

The bank aims to shed $400 billion to $500 billion of its $2.2 trillion in assets and increase revenue by 9% over the next few years as it tries to rebound from massive losses tied to deterioration in the credit markets.

The $500 billion in so-called legacy assets the bank intends to sell off or allow to mature include yet-to-be-named noncore businesses, as well as assets in Citigroup's securities and consumer banking segments. That includes mortgages and other real-estate-related holdings.

The anticipated rise in revenue will derive largely from cutting costs -- which Chief Financial Officer Gary Crittenden said would mean more job reductions. Citi has lowered its head count by 13,200 since last summer.

The moves could mean the bank loses its standing as the nation's largest if it doesn't increase other assets simultaneously. According to their most recent regulatory filings, Bank of America Corp. has $1.74 trillion in total assets, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. has $1.64 trillion.

The investor presentation Friday did not come as a huge surprise. Citigroup has already begun its winding-down process by writing down about $38 billion in soured debt since last summer and setting plans to reduce its residential mortgage assets by $45 billion over the coming year. It has also sold businesses including CitiCapital, CitiStreet and Diners Club.

Those moves arrived on top of huge stock sales to outside investors, including government funds in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.

Roger Lister, chief credit officer for U.S. financial institutions at bond rating company DBRS, said Citi should be able to find buyers for its assets, as most are not particularly risky but are simply low revenue generators for the bank.

"The plan makes sense -- in some ways, it's the easy part," Lister said.

Though others agreed that Citi had to sell assets, not everyone was certain how easy such a sale would be.

"I'm not sure they have half a trillion in good assets that someone wants to buy. But they're doing the obvious -- they have no choice," said R. Christopher Whalen, managing director of consulting firm Institutional Risk Analytics.

Either way, whether Pandit's plan proves successful will determine his legacy as a turnaround specialist for a company that many say was struggling long before the housing market collapse.

Citigroup shares slipped 67 cents, or 2.8%, to $23.63 on Friday.

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