Citigroup Management Looks Overmatched

From the WSJ:

“The selloff in Citigroup shares has led executives to start laying out possible contingency plans. In addition to pondering a move to sell the entire company to another bank, executives have started exploring the possibility of selling off parts of the firm, including the Smith Barney retail brokerage, the global credit-card division and the transaction-services unit, which is one of Citigroup’s most lucrative and fast-growing businesses, the people said.”

Sound familiar? Lehman Brothers was stunned by their tremendous stock price decline and considered selling off Neuberger Berman, its most prized and valuable unit. Citi executives are obviously clueless right now. After all, their CEO is a former hedge fund manager and has no banking experience whatsoever. Conversely, the top brass at the other major banks are all seasoned bankers.

Selling off their valuable assets to raise money to burn in their worst units is not a good strategy. It is hard enough to operate Citi if you are a great CEO, due to its immense size, but the situation nowadays only further reinforces the notion that Citi should be broken up. Nobody with a clear head would argue that Citi’s breakup value is worth less than the current $4.71 share quote. That said, when management looks incapable and nobody can really get a clear view of what exactly Citi’s financial picture looks like with everything lumped together, it is hard to have confidence that the underlying value of the firm’s assets will be realized anytime soon. Hence, people just sell the stock.

Full Disclosure: No position in Citigroup at the time of writing, but positions may change at any time