Citigroup to unload $400 billion non-core assets (Lead)

May 9th, 2008 - 11:25 pm ICT by admin  

By Parveen Chopra
New York, May 9 (IANS) Vikram Pandit, India born chief executive of Citigroup, Friday presented his strategy to turn around the beleaguered bank and announced that it plans to unload $400 billion more in “legacy assets” over the next few years to reinvigorate itself. Speaking confidently at the firm’s annual meeting here for analysts and institutional investors, Pandit chalked out three phases of the New York headquartered bank’s return to profitability, during which he said Citi must “get fit”, then “restructure” and finally “maximize”.

As if to deflect investor restlessness, he clarified that the phases could overlap and quicken the bank’s progress.

He seemed to be responding to his critics who felt that having come to the helm five months ago at one of the world’s largest financial institutions, he had not revealed his long-term vision for the group.

The assets ready to be shelved are especially the business units that are not in Pandit’s long-term plans. Citigroup has identified roughly $500 billion in non-core assets - 22 percent of the company. The firm would whittle down those assets to less than $100 billion over the next two to three years.

Pandit, however, affirmed that he remains committed to Citi’s universal bank model, despite calls by critics to break up the firm for better management.

“We believe the right model is a global universal bank,” said Pandit. “This is the model that delivers the most shareholder value.”

Addressing the recent shake-ups at the firm’s securities and banking unit - that has cost Citi tens of billions in losses from bad subprime mortgages deals - Pandit said, “We’re looking at everything” but added that Citi intends its securities business to eventually produce a return on equity of 18-20 percent.

He emphasised that such progress won’t come quickly - the unit’s performance will be “lower, clearly, for the next couple of years”.

The company is aiming for 9 percent revenue growth moving forward after suffering through the roughest patch in its 196-year history.

Citi capped a particularly tough 2007 by posting a $10 billion fourth-quarter loss - the worst ever in its history, and followed that up last month by recording another staggering loss, this time worth $5.1 billion.

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