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Citigroup's Profit Falls 12% But Still Tops Views

Citigroup Inc.'s (C) second-quarter profit fell 12% from a year earlier amid a decline in revenue and a smaller benefit from releasing reserves set aside for losses from defaulting loans. Citi's focus has been on growing abroad and cutting expenses, but second-quarter results were caught in the cross current of the rising dollar--but benefited in North America from the booming mortgage business driven by low interest rates and government programs for struggling home owners. The $2.9 billion profit, flat from the first quarter, beat the average analyst estimate. Revenue fell 9.7% from a year earlier, to $18.6 billion, and slipped slightly from the first quarter in part because Citi's $219 million gain from the valuation of its own debt was considerably smaller than the loss in previous quarters. Chief Executive Vikram Pandit called the quarter "solid" and pointed to the diverse set of businesses. Expenses declined, and Pandit reiterated that the focus on reducing operating costs would continue. Total loans rose 1% from a year earlier, to $655 billion. Pandit rebuilt Citi after the financial crisis around its international operations. But, uncharacteristically, the consumer business in North America ended up doing better than abroad because revenue from deposits and consumer lending in Asia and Latin America were hampered by the impact of translating the foreign currency income into dollars. Revenue in the international consumer business would have been up 4% had currency swings not pushed the revenue down, while revenue in North America's consumer business remained flat. Overall, revenue in Citi's consumer business remained roughly flat from a year earlier, at $9.8 billion. Net income in all consumer businesses fell slightly from a year earlier, to $2 billion, and rose in securities and banking, to $1.4 billion. Capital markets revenue, however, held its own in a difficult trading quarter where bankers struggled with uncertainties about economic growth in the U.S. and Asia, while Europe continued to struggle with its debt crisis. The securities and banking segment's revenue were flat from a year earlier and rose slightly from the previous quarter, benefiting from the strength in the interest rates and currency markets. Citi's third segment, transaction services, did well as usual. And Citi Holdings--the division in charge of shrinking assets and business that are troubled or Citi no longer considers core to its operations--continued to shrink as planned; it generated a $920 million loss. Citi reduced its reserve for bad loans by $984 million, half of what it released into earnings a year earlier, and booked a $424 million loss from the sale of a 10% stake in Akbank TAS (AKBNK.IS). Citi retains a 9.9% stake in the Turkish bank. Citi's per-share earnings of 95 cents beat analysts' estimates, even excluding the gain from the valuation of its own debt. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected 89 cents a share, excluding mark-to-market adjustments on debt gains. --Saabira Chaudhuri contributed to this article. Write to Matthias Rieker at matthias.rieker@dowjones.com

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