Investment Banking

Citi Profits Boosted By Cost Cutting

Citigroup's operating expenses fell 10%, partly due to lower legal and related expenses.
Katie Kuehner-HebertApril 16, 2015

Now that its legal and restructuring costs have lessened, Citigroup Thursday posted its biggest quarterly profit since the financial crisis.

The New York City-based financial services company said that first-quarter net income rose 21%, to $4.77 billion, or $1.51 a share. Excluding accounting adjustments, earnings per share was $1.52, beating analysts’ consensus estimate by 12 cents.

“We had a strong quarter overall, particularly in executing against our top strategic priorities,” Citi chief executive Michael Corbat said in a press release. “While some businesses faced revenue headwinds, we grew loans and deposits in our core businesses. … We tightly managed our expenses, helping to achieve positive operating leverage in Citicorp and we are on track to hit our financial targets for the year.”

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Citi’s operating expenses fell 10%, $10.9 billion, driven by ongoing efficiency savings and lower legal and related expenses, as well as the impact of foreign exchange translation. Those savings were partially offset by higher regulatory and compliance costs and volume-related expenses.

On the Citi earnings call, CFO John Gerspach said  the company has about $700 million of additional annual cost savings to realize during 2015. “And in the first quarter, we generated just over $200 million of that remaining $700 million,” said Gerspach.

The financial institution has been selling off foreign retail operations and shuttering U.S. branches.

“It was a refreshing quarter for Citigroup to have, finally, some of those large legal and repositioning charges slow down,” Edward Jones analyst Shannon Stemm told Bloomberg.“The focus can move more to some of the underlying business results.”

Citi still needs to contend with investigations into money-laundering controls and rigging of interest-rate and currency benchmarks, Bloomberg said. Two sources told the news service that its banking unit is under pressure to plead guilty to a felony in the foreign-exchange probe.

Citi’s total revenue excluding accounting adjustments fell 1.9%, to $19.8 billion. Revenue from bond and equity trading fell 9.5%, to $4.36 billion; and fixed-income, currencies and commodities trading revenue, excluding some accounting adjustments, fell 11%, to $3.48 billion.

On the other hand, global consumer banking boosted net income 3.8% to $1.73 billion.