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Citibank’s cloudy future
Is the ailing banking giant near bankruptcy or a break-up?
W

hat happened
Citigroup’s board is reportedly meeting Friday to discuss selling off pieces of the banking giant or even the whole company, among other options, after Citi’s stock fell 26 percent Thursday to below $5 a share, its lowest close since 1994. Citi was once the largest U.S. bank, with a market value of $274 billion; now it’s No. 5, worth about $26 billion. (Bloomberg)

What the commentators said
Clearly, people “are quickly losing faith in Citigroup,” said Mara Der Hovanesian in BusinessWeek online. The bank is “doing its best to calm investors," and one high-roller, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, pledged Thursday to raise his stake by $350 million, to 5 percent. But the market is worried about Citi’s exposure to toxic assets, and many think “some sort of government intervention” will be needed.

How the government could help “is an open question,” said Dan Wilchins in Reuters. The U.S. Treasury has already invested $25 billion in Citi, and it could invest more to “soothe investors.” It could take an 80 percent stake, as with AIG; guarantee Citi’s debt; or force its liquidation or breakup, as with Washington Mutual.

CEO Vikram Pandit is already “dismantling parts of the company,” said Liz Moyer in Forbes online. He’s aiming to cut 52,000 jobs, half from selling off businesses. But Pandit isn’t keen on truly breaking up his megabank, and selling or spinning off major units “may be impossible,” anyway, in this market.

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