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Corbat Says Citigroup Can No Longer Be ‘Everything to Everyone’

Citigroup Inc. (C), the U.S. bank that cut unwanted assets 25 percent last year, should no longer be expected to offer clients unlimited financial services, Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat said.

“People shouldn’t want us to be everything to everyone,” the 53-year-old said in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We’ve gone through a pretty significant transformation. We’ve got the right business mix.”

Global banks are selling assets, firing staff and exiting some markets to lift profit and capital levels to meet stricter regulatory requirements and boost shareholder returns. Corbat is trimming spending after taking over from former CEO Vikram Pandit, who expanded New York-based Citigroup’s operations in emerging markets before directors ousted him in 2012.

Corbat said Citigroup will continue cutting costs. Investors “saw the benefits” of exiting five consumer businesses and overhauling other units last year, he said.

The size of Citi Holdings, the business that houses unwanted and loss-making assets, fell to $117 billion in the fourth quarter from $156 billion a year earlier, Citigroup said in a presentation on its website last week. Corbat ran the unit, which mainly consists of U.S. mortgages, until the end of 2011.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat poses for a photograph following a Bloomberg Television interview at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, on Jan. 23, 2014. Close

Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat poses for a photograph following... Read More

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Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat poses for a photograph following a Bloomberg Television interview at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, on Jan. 23, 2014.

“The world’s becoming a better place and again it is up to us to make sure we’re doing the right things,” Corbat said. “We’ve got the resources: we’ve built capital, we have liquidity.”

Growth Caution

Citigroup reported fourth-quarter earnings that missed Wall Street estimates last week as bond trading slumped. Its shares have dropped 5.6 percent since Jan. 16, when the company said net income more than doubled from a year ago to $2.69 billion.

Corbat said he expects the U.S. economy to grow between 2.6 percent and 2.7 percent this year. That’s less than the 2.8 percent median estimate of 83 economists compiled by Bloomberg.

The global economy will probably expand about 3.25 percent in 2014 with emerging markets growing an average 5 percent, he said. The International Monetary Fund raised its global growth estimate to 3.7 percent in a report two days ago.

Corbat was CEO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa before replacing Pandit. He’s been at the company and its predecessors since leaving Harvard University with a degree in economics 31 years ago

The economic expansion will help alleviate the pain of the Federal Reserve reducing its bond purchases, though transitions to higher interest rates are “never smooth,” Corbat said.

“As a world we go into this one probably a bit better than we have historically,” he said. “If you’re extracting that excess liquidity as the rest of the economy, that powerful engine, is coming behind it, it should create for a better transition.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicholas Comfort in Frankfurt at ncomfort1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net

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