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Citigroup results: Citi hits the Trifecta

Strong first-quarter results show the turnaround is working; Trading revenues stand comparison with the best firms

On April 19, Citigroup passed a significant milestone in its restructuring by reporting net income for the first quarter of 2010 of $4.4 billion. That’s the highest profit it has recorded since the second quarter of 2007 when the bank was speeding into the wall of the financial crisis.

“This is an important quarter for us. We’ve come a long way,” Citigroup chief executive Vikram Pandit told investors and analysts, a sense of quiet pride clearly detectable in his voice.

The bank benefited from improving credit conditions. It even released amounts from its loss reserves after spending many quarters building them up. Expenses were down. Most eye-catching of all, the FICC and equity trading businesses inside the investment bank produced earnings and revenues to match against industry leaders such as JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs that had fared so much better through the financial crisis. Their franchises stayed strong while Citigroup was forced into a restructuring. But the bank has rebuilt.

“The company hit the Trifecta. Vikram Pandit’s long battle has been justified,” says Richard Bove, bank analyst at Rochdale Securities. “Citigroup has turned around.”

Others point out that the first quarter’s financial results were flattered by Citigroup earning a lot of its revenues in low-tax economies and by upward revaluations of the special pool of problem sub-prime assets now bouncing off their lows.

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