Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Gulf investors may not save Citigroup, Dubai executive says

Gulf investors may not save Citigroup, Dubai executive says

By Mirna Sleiman and Andrew Critchlow

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Mideast sovereign wealth funds may fail to save troubled U.S. banking giant Citigroup Inc. unless more cash is pumped into the lender, the head of a $13 billion Dubai-owned investment firm said Tuesday.

Sameer Al Ansari, Chief Executive of Dubai International Capital told delegates at a private equity conference that it will take more than the combined efforts of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the Kuwait Investment Authority and Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal to save the bank.

"It's going to take more than that to rescue Citi," Ansari said. He added that more write downs are expected and that Gulf investors would be required to bolster Citi.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, or ADIA, a sovereign wealth fund owned by the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, last year bought a 4.9% stake in Citigroup.

The Kuwait Investment Authority also said in January it would invest $3 billion in Citigroup.

Al Ansari said "it would take a lot more money to rescue Citigroup." A spokesperson for Citi was unable to comment immediately when called Tuesday.

Dubai International Capital, an investment firm controlled by Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, owns a stake in HSBC Holdings PLC (HSBA.LN), bought 3.12% in European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co last year. The company also owns a stake in Standard Chartered PLC (STAN.LN), according to Zawya Investor.

The intervention of sovereign funds such as ADIA, which pumped $7.6 billion into Citi, has failed to stem a decline in the bank's share price that was first triggered by the emergence last year of an $11 billion sub-prime write-down that led to the resignation of the then embattled chief executive Charles 'Chuck' Prince.

Citi's share price has fallen by more than 33% since late November, when the ADIA stake purchase was first reported, till date to close at $23.09 Tuesday.

The bank said in January that it lost $9.83 billion in the fourth quarter spurred by $18 billion in write-downs. To stem the losses Citi said it planned to raise $14.5 billion in capital by selling stakes to investors including Saudi's Prince Alwaleed, the lenders largest single shareholder.

Since coming out in support of former chief executive Prince prior to his resignation billionaire Alwaleed has commented little on Citi's current travails.

A spokesperson for Prince Alwaleed's office didn't answer calls on Tuesday.

Middle East sovereign funds flush with cash from record oil earnings are looked upon as possible saviors for many international lenders reeling from continued U.S. sub-prime losses.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, chief executive of the Qatar Investment Authority, QIA, told Zawya Dow Jones in January that the emirate's sovereign wealth fund planned to invest up to $15 billion buying stakes in up to 12 blue-chip U.S. and European banks.

The Qatari fund said last month that it had built a significant stake in Credit Suisse Group . The Swiss lender later said it had incurred a $2.85 billion hit from bad trading.

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