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Monday, December 10, 2007

Alternative to the Fargo Forum: Better Get Use to it... Its official the Arabs will literally own us.

Citigroup Borrows $7.5 Billion 11% interest yikes!

Oh My God, more like it!

Citigroup Inc., the biggest U.S. bank by assets, will receive a $7.5 billion cash infusion from Abu Dhabi to replenish capital after record mortgage losses wiped out almost half its market value.

Citigroup rose 2.6 percent in New York trading today following acting Chief Executive Officer Win Bischoff's statement late yesterday that funds from the state-owned Abu Dhabi Investment Authority will help ``strengthen our capital base.''

Abu Dhabi will buy securities that convert to stock and yield 11 percent a year, almost double the interest Citigroup offers bond investors, underscoring the New York-based company's need for cash. Fourth-quarter profit will be reduced by as much as $7 billion because of losses from subprime mortgages, which led to the departure of CEO Charles O. ``Chuck'' Prince III and a 46 percent slump in its stock this year.

``Clearly, Citi has a problem with capital adequacy after the subprime crisis,'' said Giyas Gokkent, head of research at National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC, Abu Dhabi's biggest bank by market value. ``ADIA has seen an opportunity to get cheaply into a blue-chip stock.''

With the purchase of a 4.9 percent stake, Abu Dhabi, the largest emirate in the United Arab Emirates and its capital, would rank as Citigroup's largest shareholder ahead of Los Angeles-based Capital Group Cos. and Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Depleted Capital

The investment follows purchases by U.A.E. fund Dubai International Capital LLC in companies including London-based HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe's biggest bank by market value, and New York-based hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management LLC. In Abu Dhabi, state-backed Mubadala Development Co. agreed to buy 7.5 percent of Washington-based buyout firm Carlyle Group. ADIA also owns a stake in Leon Black's New York-based buyout firm, Apollo Management LP.

Citigroup Chairman Robert Rubin, who stepped in after Prince resigned, and Chief Financial Officer Gary Crittenden said on a conference call earlier this month that the bank expects to restore capital to targeted levels by the end of the second quarter without having to cut its $2.7 billion-a-quarter dividend.

Mortgage writedowns cut Citigroup's ``tier 1'' ratio, a metric used to assess banks' ability to weather loan losses, to 7.3 percent on Sept. 30. The figure, while above U.S. regulators' 6 percent threshold for a ``well-capitalized'' bank, was below the bank's 7.5 percent target.

`Bullish' View

The Citigroup equity units that ADIA will purchase can be swapped for as many as 235.6 million shares starting in 2010. The securities will convert into Citigroup shares at prices ranging from $31.83 to $37.24 between March 15, 2010, and Sept. 15, 2011.

Today Citigroup's stock rose 78 cents to $30.54 as of 10:03 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Yesterday, they closed at $29.76, the lowest price in five years.

``The structure of the deal suggests that Abu Dhabi is very bullish, effectively participating in the upside beyond $37.24, and sharing in the downside below $31.83,'' said George Nikas, who helps manage $1 billion at Deutsche Bank AG in Sydney.

Abu Dhabi will have ``no role in the management or governance of Citi, including no right to designate a member'' of the company's board, Citigroup said in its statement.

``This investment reflects our confidence in Citi's potential to build shareholder value,'' ADIA Managing Director Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed al-Nahyan said in the Citigroup statement.

Cost of Capital

Mounting subprime losses have increased Citigroup's funding costs. The bank sold $4 billion of 10-year bonds on Nov. 14, paying annual interest of 6.125 percent. The securities were priced to yield 190 basis points more than Treasuries, up from 118 basis points, or 1.18 percentage points, in a similar sale three months earlier.

CIBC World Markets analyst Meredith Whitney said in a note to clients today that she still expects Citigroup to cut its dividend as mortgage losses increase.

Abu Dhabi officials met with Rubin in the emirate yesterday to discuss ``world stock markets and their impact on the performance of banks,'' the state-run WAM news agency reported on its Web site.

Abu Dhabi owns the world's fifth-biggest oil reserves. It channels oil surpluses to ADIA, which ranks as the world's biggest sovereign wealth fund with assets of $875 billion, according to July estimates by the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit. The authority will spend $40 billion this year to buy foreign assets, estimates Gokkent at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi.

Buying Assets

Gulf investors have spent about $70 billion on overseas acquisitions this year, almost double their spending in 2006, as oil prices soared 58 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg show. With oil above $90 a barrel, Gulf producers including Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. earn more than $1.3 billion a day from their energy sales.

State-controlled Saudi Basic Industries Corp., the biggest chemicals company by market value, in May agreed to buy General Electric Co.'s plastic unit for $11.6 billion in a record acquisition for the Gulf. State-owned Dubai World in August agreed to invest as much as $5.1 billion in MGM Mirage, the second-largest casino company, to try to tap into the Las Vegas- based company's U.S. gaming and real estate earnings.

Gulf petrodollars don't always get the prize. Qatar on Nov. 5 said it abandoned a $21.9 billion bid for U.K. supermarket chain J Sainsbury Plc after its cost of funding jumped ``significantly'' since first making the bid July 18.

China's Purchases

China also has been increasing investments in the U.S. and Europe. Bear Stearns Cos., the fifth-biggest U.S. securities firm, agreed last month to sell a 6 percent stake to China's government-controlled Citic Securities Co. for about $1 billion. China Investment Corp., the nation's $200 billion sovereign wealth fund, paid $3 billion for a stake in New York-based private equity firm Blackstone Group LP in May. Barclays Plc, the U.K.'s third-biggest lender, agreed to sell 6.7 percent of itself to China Development Bank in July.

The state-owned Dubai International Financial Center, which bought 2.2 percent of Deutsche Bank AG in May, on Nov. 19 said it is seeking acquisitions in the U.S., where the falling dollar and a lending crisis are driving down the price of banks and property.

Dubai Center

Citigroup is among tenants at the Dubai center, a business park being used to attract banks, insurers and asset managers to the Persian Gulf. Like neighbors Qatar and Bahrain, Dubai is bidding to plug the trading time gap between Europe and Asia and become the region's pre-eminent financial hub.

Qatar, like Abu Dhabi, is seeking to diversify its economy away from near-total reliance on energy earnings. Unlike Abu Dhabi, the oil wells of Dubai and Bahrain have almost run dry.

ADIA ``will bolster Citigroup's capital and competitiveness,'' U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said in a statement. The New York Democrat was among the lawmakers who criticized the Bush administration's decision last year to approve DP World Ltd.'s $6.8 billion acquisition of London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., a deal that gave the Dubai state-owned port company control of six U.S. terminals.

Schumer was among those who said Dubai ownership would jeopardize U.S. national security, arguing that two terrorists involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were from the U.A.E.

AIG's Purchase

DP World agreed in December to sell the U.S. terminals, in cities including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and New Orleans, to American International Group Inc., the world's biggest insurer.

``The issue for DP World was a misunderstanding that it might misuse its control of some U.S. ports, but that is behind us and Dubai in particular has been doing a lot of deals in the U.S. since then,'' said Mohammed Ghubash, professor of political science at the U.A.E. University in al-Ain.

Prince Alwaleed, a nephew of Saudi King Abdullah, invested $590 million in Citigroup predecessor Citicorp in 1991 when the bank needed cash because of loan losses in Latin America and a collapse in U.S. property prices. Alwaleed now holds about $6 billion of Citigroup shares. The prince wasn't available for comment at his Riyadh office today.

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