Tuesday, March 10, 2009

FT Debunks Citi Memo

Good read on the purposefully leaked Citi memo today from Financial Times. The Brits make a good point about Citi's so called bumper revenues, which a) are not bumper at all based on historical standards and b) are to be expected as increased revenues always accompany volatile markets, especially in f/x and cash equities. The main thing Citi did not provide info on is the impact of writedowns, which one can bet their bottom dollar will be large to quite large.
"Citi having a bumper top line is nothing to get excited about. That “profitable” remains unquantified gives no comfort as to what extent writedowns have eaten into that haul. Provided the global economy keeps deteriorating, and house prices sink lower, balance sheets may fail even harsh stress-tests. It remains a brave investor who believes that this time bank revenues can overwhelm the writedown bogeymen."
The FT also has beef with two other concepts brought up in the letter: that depositors and investors are, contrary to fact, not fleeing in droves, and that Citi has a strong capital position. Of course, the $81 bn in TCE only materializes assuming the government extracts its pounds of flesh, which would not have been necessary if the asset side of the business wasn't an icecube next to a flamethrower. Another question is how much of this blockbuster revenue was due to the Smith Barney brokerage: Citi was forced to sell half of this unit about a month ago, and thus any associated revenues have to be chopped in half for a true pro forma representation, else Citi is double counting the income statement and balance sheet benefits.

As more impairments have to be taken, higher and higher tranches of the capital structure will likely become equitization candidates and thus sources of incremental stock dilution. Lastly to assume that BofA and WFC are immune from C's cancer, is as naive as rampant stock purchasing based on a 1 page letter of unsubstantiated propaganda.
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Advant Guard said...

The Citi memo pretty much states the obvious. I think the case for a first quarter profit is pretty strong considering that the bulk of the writedowns for commercial real estate and credit cards will be in the 2nd and 3rd quarter. After all, tomorrow is another day.

I don't think the banking system is in as dire a situation as some are saying. There will be a lot of small banks taken out by commercial real estate. Banks that depend heavily on credit cards will also be in danger. But overall U.S. banks should do pretty good. I worry more about foreign banks which aren't required to carry as much capital as U.S. banks.

Michael Krause said...

I guess you are not long C anymore, eh?

Max Leverage said...

TD was never long C based on fundamentals, he was stalking a short covering rally.

aviat72 said...

The Brits have a thorn in the place where the sun never shines when they compare themselves with the US. The UK Pound is in the dumps, their banks have all but been nationalized and their ability to raise capital from foreign nations was a story of the last two centuries. What they want to do is to portray that the US too is in the same shape as the UK. After all they are competing for foreign capital with the US. As a result the British financial press is invariably hyper negative about anything positive coming from the US banking system. Take anything the FT reports with a fistful of salt.

Anonymous said...

CITI, is a government sponsored Mega-Bank, sucking USA Taxpayers out of their money. They are part and parcel to the IMF, that feeds on Socialism-ie.taxes. The Middle Class People around the world have basically been almost,"wiped out" over a few months time. Pensions, Home Equity, Benefits reduced or eliminated, Payrolls and hours cut, and Jobs lost. This is what happens when Governments "decide to bring the bottom up, by catering "a plan", ie.subprime LDI's, with the top (Wall Street)". The Middle gets Crushed.!! Has anyone heard "of governments cutting Any Thing?? NO.
its tax and spend as usual. More Government Employees, More Government Regulations, More "dependancy" on Middle Class Taxpayers Money, to "solve another government created crisis".

Michael M. Hobby said...

The ramifications of the massive, recent write downs has also been massive, and extends well beyond our borders. The perhaps far greater ramifications of what I think has been correctly predicted as inescapable even with valiant government efforts to at least slow them, may be yet to come.
One of those, which I really wish some of you with far-reaching vision would address and at least attempt to enumerate (even broadly) is those affecting the enormous and rapidly expanding segment of we on SS who either have lost, or failed to prepare for adequately, any significant cushion.
I realize the thrust of your site is not directed to this sector, but the current milieu has far-reaching impacts which are growing. Some of these are unarguably crises, but to coin a familiar phrase, are also "opportunity riding the dangerous wind."
To focus my opening remarks, let me address one in particular, an opportunity I am seizing. Born in 1946, I am on the leading edge of a massive wave of Baby Boomers utterly unprepared for a depression if, and this IF is enormous, we are retiring in the United States.
One aspect for which your site IS properly oriented is the impact of the U.S. decline upon neighboring and distant economies. I recently bookmarked on UTube a short video entitled, "Did you Know" which shocked even me, who thought I did. It makes obvious the accuracy of some of the posts on your site and those to which it is linked. I recommend it to anyone who hasn't viewed it as two stunning minutes. It wasn't lost on me, and I doubt it will be lost on anyone else who watches it. Although it doesn't specifically address the additional long-term pressure of demographic winter on U.S. decline, which I have been pondering since becoming aware of the concept, it indirectly buttresses it.
Let's take Mexico as a perfect example, the opportunity I am seizing: Even at the 10:1 exchange rate, it was possible for an American on SS to enjoy an upper middle-class lifestyle. With a nest egg, it translated well into an upper-class. At the current 15:1 (and growing) exchange rate, which only defines the impact of the first part of the collapse of the banking and housing sectors, the dispiriting, ascending unemployment rate, which is far from the crest, etc., etc., the hundreds of thousands (and rapidly expanding number) of quasi and fully retired American expats in Mexico have shifted into the upper class with SS alone! Along the U.S.-Mexico border, the exchange rate makes little difference; it remains essentially a dollar-based economy and will persist as such. Within the interior, however, where we Americans are concentrated, exists an entirely different world.
The brilliant foresight of the Mexican government in removing the classic restraints affecting retirement of Americans there has dramatically changed the picture. The new, annually renewable visa eliminates the semi-annual trip to the border; the residency visa (Type 2) enables one to bring all of their belongings across the border duty-free (where your possessions are is always where your home really is). Full access to Mexico's modern health care system, elimination of restrictions upon where a foreigner can outrightly own property, including such determinants as owning controlling equity in business enterprises, especially entrepreneurial, has established de facto citizenship with the single limitation of the right to vote. Mexico sees the Baby Boomers coming, and they have thrown the door wide open. I should note that the door was wide open BEFORE the first phase of financial collapse bordering on depression had even begun! A massive and expanding transfer of U.S. wealth to Mexico is in the offing.
As a geoarchaeologist very familiar with every region of Mexico, culture-shock vanished long ago. For those mortified at the thought of enjoying their retirement outside our borders, the number and depth of incidents of (known) corruption at all levels of U.S. politics and government is only the opening salvo, and is, or should be, a powerful salve. As an expat retiree quickly learns, the feared language barrier is essentially a myth. Not only is English widely spoken or understood, Americans have tended to concentrate in the most desirable areas, which inevitably morph them into quasi-American communities. It's what we do anywhere we go.
My comments barely scrape the surface. As attractive as expat life now looms, the next half of the collapse (let's hope it can be limited to that) will balloon this opportunity even more. For those who generally follow your site and who generally still have something of a nest egg, that opportunity is vast indeed.
We'll see if I'm correct in my portrayal. I'll keep you posted following my arrival in Oaxaca on April 6th. I am creating a forum on my website, GEOARCHAEOLOGY, specifically for this purpose. Expect postings to that forum beginning in earnest around mid-year. Your thoughts? Sincerely, Michael M. Hobby