Thursday, November 20, 2008

Citigroup Considers Sale of Company, Wall Street Journal Says

(Bloomberg) Citigroup Inc., which fell 26 percent in New York trading today, is considering selling off pieces of the bank or the whole company, the Wall Street Journal reported online, citing people familiar with the matter.

Talks are preliminary and don’t suggest that New York-based Citigroup is backing away from its insistence that it has sufficient capital and funding, the Journal said.

Buffeted by four straight quarterly losses, Citigroup has raised about $75 billion since December by selling assets and equity stakes, including a $25 billion injection from the U.S. Treasury. The government will do whatever it takes to stabilize Citigroup, including pouring more money into the company, because of the threat its failure would pose to the global economy, said Peter Wallison, a fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute.

“There is no question that Citigroup will not be allowed to fail,” said Wallison, who was Treasury Department general counsel under former President Ronald Reagan. “I would not think it is a good idea to restore the ban on short selling,” he said.

Citigroup declined $1.69 to a 15-year low of $4.71 on the New York Stock Exchange at 4:15 p.m. It has fallen 84 percent this year.

Citigroup has lost about $20 billion in the past four quarters as bad loans increased and demand for banking services declined. Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit said this week the company will cut 52,000 jobs in the next year to lower costs.

Citigroup is seeking to revive a prohibition on short- selling financial stocks, according to a person familiar with the matter. The bank has discussed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and lawmakers its proposal to reinstitute the ban on bets that stock prices will fall, said the person, who declined to be identified because the discussions weren’t public.

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