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That Great Citi Pronounced Dead

Feb 25, 2009

I have taken an interest in Citibank in the past, because its name alone signifies that it is a type of "the great city" (Babylon) in the book of Revelation.

We appear to be at the crossroads right now, where the government will not be able to implement its current choice to "partner" with Citibank. That option would be a partial nationalization. If the government acquires any part of Citibank now, it will be the only part that is yet alive. It will be a de facto nationalization, whether it likes it or not.

The link below says flatly that Citibank is dead, along with Bank of America, after its stock dropped another 60% in just ten days. Citigroup's stock is now selling for $2.64/share, down from about $25 last October. One of the biggest losers is a billionaire Saudi Prince, who was stupid enough to invest in Citibank. He even increased his investment by $350 million last November.

I can't say for sure, but I'm betting that he doesn't read my web logs.

Here is what is being reported about him: 

The single largest investor in Citigroup is Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal. in November 2008 the Saudi prince increased his stake from 4% to 5%, investing an additional $350 million. In January of 2007, Citigroup had a market capitalization of more than $250 billion. As of Friday's close, the ENTIRE bank is worth about $10 billion. The Saudi prince is down 96% on his 4% stake. Put another way, his original stake was worth about $10 billion in January 2007. Today, he could buy the whole d**d mess for the same amount. The prince must be absolutely livid over these developments.

The prince is very exposed to Citigroup. Not only is he an investor, he also does extensive business with the bank. The assets and debts of his financial empire flow through Citigroup in the course of normal business operations. Although his financial dealings are very secretive and opaque, it stands to reason that his advisors would insist he manage this risk. Being long the bank via his ownership stake AND conducting business with the bank is now just too risky. It is the equivalent of doubling up or more in terms of risk on the very same trade. If the bank fails, everything fails. His investment and his business exposures both get severely impaired SIMULTANEOUSLY.

Therefore, the only rational action the prince can take is to shift his business AWAY from Citigroup and towards more stable banks. First the most liquid assets, such as cash deposits would be electronically routed to safer banks. Less liquid assets held in trust from stocks to bonds would be next... all the way down to the least liquid or least transferable assets. Second the credit provided by Citigroup would be swapped out. The prince can't be certain that Citigroup will have the ability to honor the requirements as they come due. This would in fact be an electronic run on the bank.

The prince is d**d if he does and d**d if he doesn't. The very action of reducing his exposure to Citigroup actually accelerates the death of the bank. If he does not act, he then runs the risk of being the final bagholder should the bank die anyways. Consequently, he can't act until he has determined beyond a reasonable doubt that the cause is lost. Then and only then will his hand be forced into action.

Unfortunately there will be no angry mob lining up at the bank. Like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, the run will be overnight, instant, electronic and leave no trace.

When the tipping point is hit, the world at large won't know until AFTERWARDS.


It may be that March 4, 2009 will prove to be the key date in our Citibank watch. This date is 490 days after Oct. 31, 2007, when Meredith Whitney first blew the whistle on Citibank. Her article almost single-handedly exposed the banking crisis for what it was and caused "the crisis of confidence" that we see today.


Keep in mind that her article was published on the 490th anniversary of Martin Luther's "95 Theses" that he nailed to the church door in Wittenburg on Halloween, Oct. 31, 1517. So after this 490-year countdown, we may now be seeing a 490-day countdown to the final meltdown of Citibank--or at least to its nationalization, which may amount to the same thing, since the stock would be worthless to all investors at that point.

What would happen if the Saudi Prince decided to grab whatever cash he could that was still remaining in Citibank? He could easily clean out the coffers, leaving it the coroner to figure out the cause of death the next day.

To calculate the 490-day count for yourself, you might want to put the following web site on your "Favorites." I find it quite handy.


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Category: News Commentary

Dr. Stephen Jones

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