Failed loans spur $7.77b Citigroup loss
NEW YORK - Citigroup Inc. became the latest bank to take a cautious view of consumers’ credit problems, reporting a $7.77 billion fourth-quarter loss due to failed loans and the costs of repaying $20 billion in government bailout money.
Even with the loss, Citigroup, the hardest hit of the big US banks during the credit crisis and recession, plans to give big bonuses this month to its top employees.
The earnings report yesterday, which met analysts’ expectations, reflected Citigroup’s struggles and changing status in the banking industry. The company was forced to set aside $8.18 billion to cover the loans consumers can’t repay, joining other big lenders who are still losing money on loans. But Citigroup, having been forced to shed its big investment banking and brokerage businesses during the banking crisis, lacked those buffers against losses that other major financial companies still have.
The company’s focus, therefore is on loans, which are deeply troubled but showing some very early signs of improvement. For example, the addition to Citigroup’s loan reserves was down 10 percent from the third quarter, and 36 percent from a year earlier.
Also, John Gerspach, Citigroup’s chief financial officer, noted during a conference call with the media that the number of mortgage and credit card loans that were newly delinquent, or between one and three months past due, had started to stabilize and even drop in some of its lending portfolios.
By repaying the bailout money, Alois Pirker, a research director at consultancy Aite Group, said Citigroup is betting the economy will recover this year.
Paying the government back also frees Citigroup of restrictions on how much it can pay its employees.