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Citigroup Is ‘World’s Best-Positioned Bank,’ Chief Pandit Says

Citigroup Inc. (C), the third-largest U.S. lender, is the “world’s best-positioned bank” to take advantage of growth in emerging markets, consumer demands for improved technology and the needs of the poor, Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit said in a letter to shareholders.

Pandit, who was forced to sell assets to stabilize a company hobbled by loan losses, is seeking to distinguish his firm from rivals like Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) that expanded through U.S. acquisitions during the credit crisis. New York-based Citigroup in 2010 posted its first annual profit since 2007, and Pandit is pushing expansion in emerging markets including Brazil and China.

Citigroup, with operations in more than 100 countries, increased net income in Latin America and Asia by 14 percent to $8.2 billion last year at operations the company plans to keep. Pandit said he aims to derive half the bank’s revenue from emerging markets and the rest from developed economies, he said in his annual letter, which was posted on the Internet today.

The bank has a “strong head start” outside the U.S., said Pandit, 54. “We are working to build on it in ways that aspiring competitors simply cannot.”

Pandit said the bank has eight execution priorities for 2011, the first of which is to “increase our share of emerging- goals include becoming “the world’s digital bank” and increasing the availability of financial services to the estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide who are “unbanked.”

Citigroup also intends to enhance its retail-banking operation in the U.S., Pandit said. Profit at the North American consumer-banking unit dropped 17 percent to $607 million in 2010, while loans and deposits slipped. Pandit overhauled the unit last year, appointing new heads of the retail and credit- card divisions.

To contact the reporters on this story: Donal Griffin in New York at Dgriffin10@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Scheer at dscheer@bloomberg.net.

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