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Friday, November 03, 2006

The Citigroup China Follies (C)((BAC)(JPM)

Citigroup wants to get further into the banking business in China. Citi wants to put $3 billion into large Chinese bank Guangdong Development Bank. Citi keeps saying "yes", "yes", "yes". Chinese regulators say "no". As a matter of fact, they insist that the answer is "no".

What is Citi doing in China trying to buy a mid-sized bank anyway? Hasn't Citi CEO Charles Prince read the papers. The company's huge retail businesses are not doing as well as management had planned. One of the large financial services company's largest investors, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has said "The grace period is over", referring to Charles Prince's time at the helm of the company.

Citi has underperformed rivals Bank of America and JP Morgan in the stock market. It would appear that investors are increasingly tired of the bank's globetrotting. They want to see some improvement in retail banking at home.

Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at He does not own securities in companies that he writes about.

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