Page last updated at 22:13 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Citigroup plunges on uncertainty

Citigroup
Citigroup's shares have lost half of their market value this week

Shares in Citigroup, one of the biggest banks in the US, plunged on Friday amid uncertainty about the firm's future.

The firm's stock rose in early trading but later tumbled to end the day 20% lower at $3.77 as investors awaited the outcome of a meeting of board members.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Citigroup was considering selling parts of the firm. There are also rumours it might merge with another firm.

Earlier in the week the firm announced 52,000 job losses worldwide.

These cuts came on top of previously announced reductions of 23,000 positions.

The total of 75,000 job cuts represent a loss of about 20% of the firm's staff, leaving it with 300,000 jobs worldwide "in the near term".

Raising capital

Chief executive Vikram Pandit told employees on Friday that the firm did not want to change its business model, Reuters reported, citing two employees.

Shares in the firm have fallen sharply since the start of the year and are trading more than 80% down since January.

Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal's decision to buy about $350m (236m) of its shares on Thursday did not calm investors' nerves.

The firm insisted on Thursday that it had "very strong capital and liquidity position and a unique global franchise".

But Mr Pandit has come under increasing pressure from critics who doubt his ability to turn around the company and survive the financial crisis.

There are fears that Citigroup will not be able to access much-needed funds unless it sells part of the business or combines with another company.

With shares severely down, raising money on the open market is "pretty much off the table" said equity analyst William Fitzpatrick of Optique Capital Management.

Investor confidence

Citigroup has lost more than $20bn in the past year because of the global financial crisis.

The bank has reported four straight quarterly losses and some analysts believe the bank will not return to profitability until 2010.

Investors are worried that further losses could threaten the bank's future.

"Its fear and panic at this point, " said Gerard Cassidy, a banking analyst at RBC Capital.

Despite the sweeping job losses, the bank has maintained that its underlying business "remains strong and revenues have been stable".

But Jason Goldberg, a Barclays Capital analyst said: "We worry if the lack of investor confidence leads to a lack of customer confidence".

Citigroup is one of nine financial institutions receiving funds from the US government's bail-out programme.

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