Citi’s Nowhere Near ‘Normalized’ Earnings: Analyst

Citibank logo on a sign
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Citibank logo on a sign

Citigroup’s first-quarter earnings results left some investors disappointed, as the bank continues to struggle as a result of the financial crisis, analyst Gerard Cassidy of RBC Capital told CNBC Monday.

“About 11 percent of total assets are still toxic from the ’08-’09 meltdown. That number needs to get to close to zero, before we can say we’re at ‘normalized’ earnings,” said Gerard Cassidy, banking analyst for RBC Capital.

In this context, ‘normalized’ means a balance sheet that has rebounded enough to remove the outsized impact of the financial crisis.

On the other hand, Cassidy believes there are plenty of reasons to be bullish on Citi .

“Total revenues were a smidge better, but within the divisions, the consumer area was quite strong in North America,” said Cassidy.

On the company’s earnings call, Citi’s CEO Vikram Pandit characterized the business as operating in an “improved environment.”

What does this mean to shareholders? A better chance at dividends, says Cassidy.

"Citi is going to obviously reapply to the Federal Reserve to return capital sometime this year, and these numbers support that effort," he added.

The Wall Street bank was turned down last year by the Fed , when it attempted a similar payout. At that time, its balance sheet wasn’t strong enough for regulators.

But this year, things might be different.

“This company, as you might recall, has been criticized for not controlling its operating expenses, which they now have under control. Expenses were flat year-over-year, and down from the fourth quarter,” said Cassidy.

Expectations for Citi to continue to keep expenses down and improve its overall books remain high, considering the performance of its peers. Financials were the best performing sector in the S&P 500 index in the first quarter.

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Gerard Cassidy does not personally own shares of Citigroup, but RBC Capital Markets is currently providing Citigroup with non-securities services. RBC is also involved in managing or co-managing the public offering of Citigroup securities.



Follow Jennifer Leigh Parker on Twitter @jparker741.