Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

The Citigroup Colossus

Too big to fail but one big failure nonetheless. When it was assembled by Sandy Weill 10 years ago, Citi was positioned to be the world's biggest financial services supermarket, with everything from stocks to insurance and a little banking in between. Today Citi is a one-bank depression. This year it has announced 75,000 job cuts, sold off divisions, and blew the acquisition of equally troubled Wachovia, which was whisked away by Wells Fargo. It's been forced to take a $20 billion handout from the U.S. government to shore up its capital base, which took a huge hit because of its exposure to CDOs and other toxic assets. The government also agreed to back more than $300 billion of those assets to keep it from collapsing. Citi stored much of that garbage in off-the-books Structured Investment Vehicles (SIVs). But now that the mortgage game is over, Citi has been forced to take the SIVs back, writing down billions in the process. Its share price is less than $10, at one point falling 90% from its peak. No wonder, as its slogan says, the Citi never sleeps.