Whatever the expectations, lower them

DISAPPOINTING is an understatement. Analysts had already cut down their expectations for Citigroup from a consensus of 76 cents in earnings per share to just 49 cents.

Little wonder that the actual number – 38 cents – was a shocker.

For those following the declining state of the investment banking industry, however, the overall narrative is hardly surprising.

Banks are struggling to lay off staff, build up capital and grab share of a shrinking market.

Citi’s primping and priming of the numbers was little help – although it will undoubtedly be mimicked by rivals (Goldman is also said to have had a slightly better run at the end of the year, after a dire few months).

Citi chose to book a nifty “credit reserve release” of $8.3bn, for example, which brought down costs significantly.

So if you look at the headline numbers, full year net profits edged up six per cent to $11.3bn. But if you strip out the reserve release, they fell 28 per cent to just $3bn.

And yet pay costs edged up five per cent for the year – it’s no wonder the bank is cutting thousands of staff.

Expectations might be low, but in this environment they can only go one way.