Citigroup Purchases Wachovia, Reclaims Throne

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – Citigroup Inc. has purchased Wachovia’s banking operations at a price tag of $2.16 billion, or roughly $1 a share, after losses stemming from bad mortgages rendered a resurfacing nearly impossible.  Citigroup will now have around 4,300 branches and offices and will surpass JPMorgan Chase as the largest U.S. bank by deposits. 

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was pleased with the purchase, and said that a failure of Wachovia “would have posed a systemic risk" to our country’s financial system.

Wachovia is yet another casualty of the credit crisis and has suffered over $42 billion in losses from the subprime fallout.  As the largest lender of adjustable-rate mortgages, Wachovia saw its shares plunge amidst a record number of defaults on home loans, particularly in Florida and California.  The ARM’s offered low “teaser” introductory rates, luring subprime candidates.  Many borrowers ended up owing more than what their home was actually worth. 

Citigroup will absorb the bank’s losses, while trying to raise an additional $10 billion to pay off Wachovia’s senior and subordinated debt.  Charlotte-based Wachovia will retain its Evergreen Asset Management unit, along with its retail brokerage unit, which oversees over $1 trillion in capital. 

The purchase will help change the once gloomy outlook for Citigroup, who at one point this year, thought they might collapse themselves after writing down over $46 billion and being one of the hardest hit banks of the housing crisis.  Citigroup posted losses in three consecutive quarters, but now says it plans on reducing expenses b more than $3 billion annually.

Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit has assured investors that he is working closely with Wachovia CEO Bob Steel in an effort to make the transition with “precision” and “speed.” 

The deal will no doubt help shed a more positive light on Pandit, after a period of bad press involving the now collapsed hedge fund he founded and eventually sold to Citigroup.  The bank, after paying $800 his Old Lane Hedge Fund, $165 million of which went directly into Pandit’s pocket, decided to close up shop this summer after suffering unsustainable losses.

The merger will give Citigroup an almost 10 percent share of the U.S. banking market, with deposits globally exceeding $1.3 trillion.    

Julie Scuderi
Senior Editor for HedgeCo.Net

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