23 February 2009

US Considers a 40% Ownership of Citigroup, Diluting the Common Shares

Citigroup is the prime candidate for receivership.

The only reason to continue this charade, other than to inspire us with confidence in the opaque duplicity of this Administration, is to preserve the shareholders who would almost certainly be wiped out, and the bondholders who would get a high and tight haircut, in the kind of restructuring that Citigroup requires as an insolvent institution.

Larry Summers and Tim Geithner are promoting this crony capitalist approach to preserve the wealth of a few at the expense of the many.

Wall Street Journal
U.S. Eyes Large Stake in Citi
By David Enrich and Monica Langley
February 23, 2009

Taxpayers Could Own Up to 40% of Bank's Common Stock, Diluting Value of Shares

Citigroup Inc. is in talks with federal officials that could result in the U.S. government substantially expanding its ownership of the struggling bank, according to people familiar with the situation.

While the discussions could fall apart, the government could wind up holding as much as 40% of Citigroup's common stock. Bank executives hope the stake will be closer to 25%, these people said.

Any such move would give federal officials far greater influence over one of the world's largest financial institutions. Citigroup has proposed the plan to its regulators. The Obama administration hasn't indicated if it supports the plan, according to people with knowledge of the talks.

When federal officials began pumping capital into U.S. banks last October, few experts would have predicted that the government would soon be wrestling with the possibility of taking voting control of large financial institutions. The potential move at Citigroup would give the government its biggest ownership of a financial-services company since the September bailout of insurer American International Group Inc., which left taxpayers with an 80% stake.

The talks reflect a growing fear that Citigroup and other big U.S. banks could be overwhelmed by losses amid the recession and housing crisis. Last week, Citigroup's share price fell below $2 to an 18-year low. Bank executives increasingly believe that the government needs to take a larger ownership stake in the institution to stop the slide.

Under the scenario being considered, a substantial chunk of the $45 billion in preferred shares held by the government would convert into common stock, people familiar with the matter said. The government obtained those shares, equivalent to a 7.8% stake, in return for pumping capital into Citigroup.

The move wouldn't cost taxpayers additional money, but other Citigroup shareholders would see their stock diluted. A larger ownership stake by the government could fuel speculation that other troubled banks will line up for similar agreements.

Bank of America Corp. said Sunday that it isn't discussing a larger ownership stake for the government. "There are no talks right now over that issue," said Bank of America spokesman Robert Stickler. "We see no reason to do that. We believe the goal of public policy should be to attract private capital into the bank, not to discourage it...."