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Citigroup reports $5.1 billion loss on hefty write-downs

By MADLEN READ
AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Citigroup Inc. lost $5.1 billion during the first quarter and will eliminate about 9,000 more jobs, as poor bets on mortgages and leveraged loans lopped billions of dollars from its investment portfolio.

Write-downs related to mortgages and turmoil in the credit markets reached about $12 billion, and costs stemming from consumers’ credit problems surpassed $3 billion, the bank said Friday. And in a conference call with analysts, Citigroup chief financial officer Gary Crittenden said the bank, seeking to cut costs, is eliminating about 9,000 additional jobs.

That means Citigroup has announced 13,200 job cuts in all, following an announcement in January that the bank was cutting 4,200 jobs. And more work-force reductions may be on the way.

The most recent quarterly shortfall at the nation’s biggest bank by assets was not as massive as the nearly $10 billion loss it suffered in the fourth quarter of last year, though.

Citigroup shares jumped more than 6 percent, or $1.52, to $25.55 at the open of trading Friday, as many investors had been bracing for even more dismal results. Citigroup’s stock has fallen 18 percent since the beginning of the year.

But Citigroup essentially lost in the first three months of the year, $1.02 per share, what it made in the same period in 2007 _ $5 billion, or $1.01 per share. Analysts, on average, had expected the New York bank to lose 95 cents per share, according to a Thomson Financial survey.

With big exposure to mortgages and leveraged loans, Citigroup remains at risk for further write-downs. The credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Services on Friday changed its ratings outlook on Citigroup to negative, citing write-downs that were on the high side of its estimates.

In the first quarter, before taxes, Citigroup took $6 billion in write-downs and credit costs on exposure to subprime mortgages; $3.1 billion in write-downs on funded and unfunded highly leveraged finance commitments; a downward credit value adjustment of $1.5 billion related to exposure to bond insurers; $1.5 billion in write-downs on auction-rate securities; and $3.1 billion in credit costs for consumers around the world.

Still, those write-downs were smaller than the $18.1 billion in write-downs it marked after the fourth quarter.

And in another positive sign for investors, total revenue came to $13.2 billion _ about half what the bank pulled in during the first quarter of 2007, but more than the average analyst forecast for $12.8 billion. The bank’s revenues were padded by its global consumer segment and its global wealth management business.

The bank ousted CEO Chuck Prince late last year and promoted Vikram Pandit, a former Morgan Stanley investment banker, as it scrambles for cash.

In December and January, Citi raised over $30 billion through sales of assets and stock to outside investors, some of which have been funds run by Asian and the Middle Eastern governments. It also has slashed costs and reorganized the bank’s various businesses.

“We are taking the necessary steps to make Citi more efficient while fostering a culture of accountability and teamwork,” Pandit said in a statement. “As we move into the second quarter and beyond, we will continue to divest non-strategic assets and allocate capital to the products and regions that will drive increased revenues, enhance the value of our franchise, and ultimately, maximize shareholder value.”

The Financial Times reported Friday that Pandit vowed to cut costs by 20 percent.

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