NEW YORK (AP) - Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley agreed Tuesday
to combine their brokerages in a deal that shows how much Citigroup
wants to slim down and build up cash.
Morgan Stanley is paying Citigroup $2.7 billion for a 51 percent
stake in the joint venture. Citigroup will have a 49 percent stake.
Citigroup's retail brokerage, Smith Barney, was once the crown
jewel in its wealth management business.
The new unit, to be called Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, will
have more than 20,000 advisors, $1.7 trillion in client assets; and
serve 6.8 million households around the world, the companies said.
Citigroup will recognize a pretax gain of about $9.5 billion
because of the deal, or about $5.8 billion after taxes, the
companies said. The joint venture is expected to achieve total cost
savings for the two companies of around $1.1 billion.
The deal was announced after the market closed. Shares of
Citigroup rose 30 cents, or 5.4 percent, to $5.90 on Tuesday, and
Morgan Stanley shares rose 7 cents to $18.86.
CEO Vikram Pandit has been saying for months that he plans to
sell assets to raise cash, but the executive, according to media
reports, is getting ready to announce that Citigroup is abandoning
the financial "supermarket" model. That term described the aim of
Citigroup - created over the last couple decades by former CEO
Sandy Weill - to service all of individuals' and businesses'
financial needs, from saving to borrowing to investing to
Citigroup has fared worse than other banks in recent years,
particularly during the recent credit crisis. The New York-based
company is expected to post a fifth straight quarterly loss next
week. The government has already lent it $45 billion - more than
other large banks received - and agreed to absorb losses on a huge
pool of Citigroup's mortgages and other soured assets.
Some investors believe Citigroup is headed for a larger-scale
breakup now that the government is involved and that
President-elect Barack Obama is rethinking how to dole out the
remaining $350 billion of bailout money.
The new administration could "come to the realization that the
whole economy does not hinge on the banks," said Octavio Marenzi,
head of financial consultancy Celent. "Banking is important. The
banks themselves are not."
William Smith of Smith Asset Management, who still owns shares
of Citigroup, has been calling for a breakup of Citigroup for years
and believes the government will force that fate, in piecemeal
fashion, over the coming year.
"I think within 12 months, Citigroup no longer exists," Smith
said. "The new CEO of this company is the government."