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Banking: Is Redecard sale the first of many for Citi?

Redecard, a merchant servicing business in Brazil that Citi holds a majority stake in, plans to undertake a follow-on secondary offering. The announcement came within hours of Citi announcing write-downs of $18.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007.

The deal will provide Citi with about $616 million of equity and is part of its strategy of selling non-core assets in an effort to retain the minimum tier 1 capital requirements.

Citi holds 24% of Redecard, with Banco Itaú and Unibanco, two leading Brazilian banks, holding a further 23.2% each. The three banks are reported to be selling about 15% of their shares through a $1.7 billion listing, with Citi reducing its holding share by 7% to 17%.

In July 2007, Redecard came to the market with an IPO on Bovespa, the Brazilian stock exchange. Despite the R$4 billion ($2.2 billion) deal being a relative success, Redecard stock did not fare well in the last six weeks of 2007 and beginning of 2008 – the price dropped off from a high of R$38 at the start of November to R$24.21 five days after the follow-on was announced. Despite this drop in market value, Citi is still keen to push through the sale. In addition to Redecard’s announcement, Citi has also sold Simplex Investment Advisors, a real estate investment advisory firm in Japan.

But what next for Citi? David Hendler, a senior analyst at CreditSights, reckons the US bank still faces tough times ahead despite announcing its bad debt write-downs.

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