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Citigroup gets $306 billion rescue from government

Date: Monday, November 24, 2008
Author: Dan Wilchins and Jonathan Stempel, Reuters.com

The U.S. government agreed to a $306 billion rescue plan for Citigroup Inc, agreeing to shoulder some losses from toxic debt in the latest attempt to bolster a financial services industry in turmoil.

Citigroup's package may also prove a template for other banks that are expected to face growing losses as economies worldwide sink into recession.

Credit losses once concentrated in mortgages are already bleeding into new, large areas such as credit cards and commercial real estate.

The nation's second-largest bank by assets has the farthest international reach of any U.S. bank, with operations in more than 100 countries. Many analysts have said Citigroup might be too big to be allowed to fail, and that any collapse could cause financial havoc around the globe.

"The market wants some kind of certainty about their losses," said Blake Howells, director of equity research at Becker Capital Management in Portland, Oregon.

The plan announced late Sunday calls for Citigroup to obtain $27 billion of capital by issuing preferred shares. The shares carry an initial 8 percent dividend, higher than the 5 percent it charges dozens of other lenders under its $700 billion financial industry rescue package. Citigroup itself got $25 billion in the earlier package.

Citigroup agreed to absorb the first $29 billion of losses on the $306 billion portfolio, plus 10 percent of additional losses, for a maximum total exposure of $56.7 billion. The Treasury Department could end up absorbing $5 billion, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp $10 billion, and the Federal Reserve the rest.

The bank will not have to make management changes, but agreed to tighter restrictions on executive pay, and to try to modify troubled mortgages in the $306 billion portfolio. It also cannot pay more than 1 cent per share in common stock dividends per quarter for three years without the Treasury Department's consent. The quarterly dividend is now 16 cents.

"The U.S. government is taking the actions necessary to strengthen the financial system and protect U.S. taxpayers and the U.S. economy," the Fed, the Treasury Department and the FDIC said in a joint statement.

Asian stock markets trimmed earlier losses in Monday trading following the announcement. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up 72 points at 8,089, while Standard & Poor's 500 futures were up 11.20 points at 802.90.

The plan was announced less than a week after Pandit announced plans to reduce Citigroup's workforce to 300,000 by early next year from 375,000 at the end of 2007.

(Reporting by Dan Wilchins and Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Jean Yoon)