US unveils $20bn Citigroup aid plan

Government to invest in struggling bank and provide protection against losses.

    Citigroup has posted losses for the past four
    financial quarters [GALLO/GETTY]

    For its part, Citigroup has agreed to comply with limits on employee severance agreements, executive pay and privileges, and implement a government mortgage modification program to limit home foreclosures.

    Executive compensation, including bonuses, must be approved by the US government under the rescue plan.

    US stocks rose more than 4.5 per cent as news of the aid plan emerged, with the Dow Jones Industrial Index leaping about 400 points to close at 8443.39 points on Monday.

    Job losses

    However, analysts say the move by the treasury could be risky.

    The global financial crisis has also
    hit Citigroup hard [Reuters]
    "If you ask someone to invest in a company that was down 87 per cent so far this year, and you didn't tell them what the name was ... they'd say absolutely not," Benjamin Pedley, an investment strategist, told Al Jazeera.

    "You don't want to throw good money after bad."

    "If you look at all the pledges that the US Fed has made - I'm talking about Fannie, Freddie, the whole works since the beginning of this crisis - they now total some $7.3 trillion."

    Citigroup, one of the world's biggest banks, recently decided to lay off about 50,000 jobs in response to heavy losses.

    The cuts came on top of a further 22,000 job losses announced by the firm in October, of which 13,000 have already gone.

    The New York-based bank has posted losses for the past four financial quarters, including a heavy loss of $2.8bn during the third quarter.

    In big trouble

    Citigroup was once the darling of Wall Street as it was perceived to have successfully combined retail with investment banking but was now in big trouble.

    It is saddled with billions of dollars in losses tied to the subprime mortgage crisis - in which millions of Americans were granted mortgages they were unable to repay - and the current global credit crunch.

    Citigroup also plans to lower expenses by about 20 per cent. It has already reduced its assets by more than 20 per cent since the first quarter of the year.

    It is also selling its Citi Global Services arm and its German retail banking business.

    In a recent interview to the Associated Press news agency, Win Bischoff, the company's chairman, said job losses were inevitable given the current financial crisis.

    "What all of us have done - and perhaps injudiciously - we've added a lot of people over ... this very benign period," he said.

    "If there is a reversion to the mean ... those job losses will obviously fall particularly heavily on the financial sector."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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