Treasury Could Profit From Citigroup Stock Sale

The Treasury Department announced Monday it will sell its stake in Citigroup — 7.7 billion common shares. The government bought the shares during the height of the financial crisis. Barring a collapse in Citigroup's stock price, the government could profit more than $8 billion.

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And the United States government says it's getting out of the banking business. The Treasury Department said, yesterday, it plans to sell billions of Citigroup shares it bought during the financial crisis.

NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH: Thanks to the financial crisis, the U.S. Treasury owns about 27 percent of Citigroup's common shares. But it's not like the government can sell them off all at once.

Mr. PAUL MILLER (Managing director, FBR Capital Markets): It put a lot of pressure on the stock.

KEITH: Paul Miller is managing director at FBR Capital Markets. He expects it will take Treasury about a year to sell its Citi stock, a little bit at a time.

Mr. MILLER: This is the best way to leak it out, and if the market can maintain its levels, you can get out of it at roughly four bucks, maybe a little bit below four bucks, which it'd be, you know, a big profit for the government.

KEITH: The government got its Citi stock at $3.25 a share. So multiply the difference by 7.7 billion and...

Ms. KAREN SHAW PETROU (Managing partner, Federal Financial Analytics): It would be an amount you would notice in your checkbook.

KEITH: Karen Shaw Petrou is managing partner at Federal Financial Analytics. She says Treasury isn't like your typical investor looking to maximize returns.

Ms. PETROU: Treasury wants to get a decent return for the taxpayer, but its primary goal is to get out, and that should be its primary goal.

KEITH: Of course, returning a little extra money to the taxpayers doesnt hurt either.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington.

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