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Citigroup beats profit estimates as rate hikes bolster lending business

Stock Markets Oct 14, 2022 12:01PM ET
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© Reuters. The logo for Citibank is seen on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 3, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

By Mehnaz Yasmin and Saeed Azhar

(Reuters) - Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) beat estimates for third-quarter profit on Friday as its lending business benefited from a series of interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and offset weakness in other divisions such as investment banking and trading.

After dealing with years of near-zero interest rates, banks are seeing a big jump in their net interest income from an increase in prime lending rates as the Fed tightens its monetary policy to stamp out decades-high inflation.

The central bank's aggressive stance has, however, sparked fears of a downturn in the economy that has in turn stalled investment banking activity, roiled financial markets and prompted companies and households to put their borrowing plans on hold.

"I don't think there is a financial crisis coming ... from anything close to the magnitude of what we've seen," Chief Financial Officer Mark Mason said on a media call.

"We're prepared for whatever the environment looks like and we're running scenarios constantly to ensure that we're ready to deal with that."

Net interest income, or the spread that banks can charge between the cost of borrowing funds and lending them out, rose 18% to $12.6 billion for the quarter from a year earlier.

Revenue from investment banking, however, tumbled 64% to $631 million from a year earlier, when Citi had its best M&A quarter and the second-best investment banking quarter in a decade.

Revenue from markets division, which houses fixed income and equity trading units, also fell 24% for the quarter.

"The trading revenue decline at Citi was worse than other banks, but we believe this is mostly attributable to its business mix within trading, rather than market share loss," said Jason Benowitz, senior portfolio manager at Roosevelt Investments.

Excluding items, Citi posted a profit of $1.5 a share, beating analysts estimate of $1.42 a share. Its revenue rose 6% to $18.5 billion.

Citi, although not a big player in the leveraged finance market, took a writedown of $110 million in the third quarter, as rising interest rates made it tougher for it to offload high-risk debt onto investors and other lenders.

The worsening economic picture also led the bank to add $370 million to its loan-loss reserves in the latest quarter, compared with a release of $1.16 billion a year earlier.

The increase in reserves pushed up Citi's overall credit costs to $1.36 billion, the highest in eight quarters since the third quarter of 2020.

The bank disclosed an exposure of $7.9 billion to Russia, $500 million less from the second quarter and said it also plans to wind down nearly all of the institutional banking services.

Under Chief Executive Officer Jane Fraser, the bank has exited key overseas markets as it struggles to keep pace with larger rivals in terms of stock valuations and profitability while working on its risk controls.

Citi will likely take "3-5 years to hit more 'normalized' profitability measures", said Eric Compton, equity strategist at Morningstar.

Shares of the bank rose 2% to $43.78 in late morning trading.

Citigroup beats profit estimates as rate hikes bolster lending business

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