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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Citi takes the money and runs

Today we heard about the "investment" in Citigroup by an entity controlled by the government of Abu Dhabi. Citi will receive a $7.5 billion cash injection by selling a stake in the firm to the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund that acts as the investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government.

The Investment Authority will receive equity units that pay an 11 percent annual yield until they are converted into Citigroup common shares at a price of up to $37.24 a share between March 15, 2010, and Sept. 15, 2011.

I was reminded of a post I recently read at the Information Arbitrage blog. (Read the post here) It was titled "Looking Overseas for a U.S. Financial Sector Bail-Out: It'll Cost You."

The author, Roger Ehrenberg (who also quotes Thorold Barker, a writer for the Financial Times), points out that the sovereign funds have "lots of investable cash at a time when relative bargains might become available. And given the scarcity value of their liquidity and the rough shape of many U.S. financial firms, they will likely demand far more onerous terms than they've gotten previously."

At a coupon rate of 11 percent, Citi is paying junk bond prices for the cash it is receiving. These are indeed terms better than were offered previously. Ehrenberg and Barker seemed to have called the play quite accurately.

There have been a number of publications and blogs that have focused on that 11% rate, considering it expensive and an admission by Citi that they are in desperate shape. There has been one blogger who feels it is a good deal for Citi. Andrew Clavell has written on his blog, Financial Crookery, a post (read it here) that describes how Citi is actually receiving "funds for 4 years at a cost equivalent to another financing source of Libor+150." He refers to it as "smart business" on the part of Citi.

Be that as it may, it also seems to be smart business for the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority who will collect a nice premium to the current dividend.

Disclosure: author is long C

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