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Citigroup loses $7B-plus in a quarter

NEW YORK — Citigroup said today it lost $7.58 billion during the final three months of 2009 as U.S. consumers still struggled to repay loans and the bank repaid its government bailout money.

Citigroup said $6.2 billion of the loss was tied to paying back $20 billion in money it received from the federal government.

The New York-based bank set aside $8.18 billion to cover soured loans during the quarter. However, in an encouraging sign, Citigroup’s provision for loan losses declined 10 percent from the previous quarter and 36 percent from the year-ago period when the credit crisis peaked.

Still, the bank’s chief financial officer, John Gerspach, said in a statement, “the environment continues to be challenging.” And the company noted in its news release that it had cut 100,000 jobs during the past year.

Citigroup was the bank hit hardest by the credit crisis and recession, receiving $45 billion in bailout money. It may turn out to have the poorest fourth-quarter showing among the big banks, as it lacks the big investment bank and trading operations that have helped other companies offset their losses from bad loans.

On Friday, JPMorgan Chase & Co. reported a $3.28 billion profit on the strength of its investment banking unit. JPMorgan said it set aside $7.28 billion for failed loans during the fourth quarter, nearly identical to the amount it reserved during the final quarter in 2008. It also warned that it didn’t know when it would be able to stop adding to its loan reserves.

Citigroup’s Gerspach did say the bank is seeing signs credit might be stabilizing or improving, especially in some of its international businesses.

The bank lost 33 cents per share during the quarter, in line with analysts expectations, according to Thomson Reuters.

Citigroup raised $20 billion in new capital during the fourth quarter to repay bailout funds. The government converted $25 billion of the bailout money into a 34 percent stake in the bank, and said last month it would sell its shares over the next year.

The bank’s stock fell 9 cents to $3.33 pre-opening trading. The stock price is perhaps the clearest indication of how far Citigroup fell during the banking crisis and recession; at the stock market’s peak in October 2007, it traded at $45 a share.

Citigroup spent much of 2009 trying to reorganize and streamline its operations to return to consistent profitability. It split its operations into two units, Citicorp and Citigroup Holdings.

Citicorp, which holds the bank’s primary businesses such as regional consumer banking, generated net income of $1.7 billion during the quarter. Citigroup Holdings, which is where the bank placed noncore assets that it has been looking to sell or unwind, lost $2.5 billion during the October-December period.

Total assets in Citigroup Holdings fell by $70 billion to $547 billion during the fourth quarter. Over the full year, Citigroup Holdings completed 14 sales, including Smith Barney and Japanese units Nikko Cordial Securities and Nikko Asset Management.

For the full year, Citigroup lost $1.61 billion, or 80 cents per share. It lost $27.68 billion, or $5.61 per share in 2008.


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