Citigroup May Get Government Rescue, Investors Say
By Christine Harper and Bradley Keoun
Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Citigroup Inc. will probably get rescued by the U.S. government after a crisis in confidence erased half its stock-market value in three days, investors and analysts said.
Citigroup has more than $2 trillion of assets, dwarfing companies such as American International Group Inc. that got U.S. support this year. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke may favor a rescue to avoid the chaotic aftermath of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s bankruptcy in September.
“There is no question that Citi is in the category of ‘too big to fail,’” said Michael Holland, chairman and founder of Holland & Co. in New York, which oversees $4 billion. “There is a commitment from this administration and the next to do what it takes to save Citi.”
While Citigroup executives say the company has adequate capital and liquidity to ride out the crisis, its tumbling share price may shake the confidence of creditors, clients and rating agencies. A similar scenario played out at Lehman, when Chief Executive Officer Richard Fuld declared the firm was “on the right track” five days before the firm went bankrupt.
“The market may be implying some sort of regulatory intervention,” Jason Goldberg, a former Lehman analyst who now works at Barclays Capital in New York, wrote in a note to clients today. “In situations where the government has stepped in, the equity holders have not fared well.”
... Once the biggest U.S. bank, with a market value of $274 billion at the end of 2006, Citigroup has now slipped to No. 5 behind Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp. A plan by 51-year-old Pandit this week to cut costs by shedding 52,000 jobs and an endorsement by billionaire Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal didn’t assuage shareholders’ concern that bad loans and securities writedowns may extend a year-long run of net losses totaling $20 billion.
“To be consistent with the last few government interventions, I don’t think Citigroup’s going to be allowed to fail,” said William Fitzpatrick, an analyst at Optique Capital Management Inc. in Milwaukee, which oversees about $1 billion and doesn’t own Citigroup shares. “This company’s too intertwined with the rest of the financial system to allow any further deterioration.”