Bird lauds Asia contribution to Citi results

Stephen Bird, chief executive of Citi Asia, writes to regional staff, highlighting "solid results in a challenging year" as global net profit misses analyst expectations.

When an internal memo pops into your inbox with the words “significant”, “momentum”, “achievements” and “successful” dotted throughout, you know you can probably rest easy – for a while.

And thus was the case as Stephen Bird broke down Citi’s fourth-quarter results for staff in Asia, some of whom were possibly spooked by the headline numbers that poured out of head office in New York on Thursday.

The message: global profit might have missed expectations – on the back of a poor quarter for fixed-income trading – but, regionally at least, there were enough positives to pick through.

In the memo, sent to Asia staff on Friday morning and seen by FinanceAsia, Citi Asia's chief executive wrote that the region provided “solid results in the face of challenging headwinds”.  

“In 2013 we made significant progress on many of our strategic initiatives,” wrote Bird, including “the biggest ever bancassurance deal” in the region (with AIA Group).

Other highlights include a “successful year in M&A”, a “14% increase in full-year securities and banking revenues” and “expanding renminbi capabilities”, which presumably is similar to an expanding waistline after Christmas.

So, the numbers.

For the fourth quarter, Citi Asia contributed $1.2 billion of the group’s $3.7 billion Ebit – up 22% year-on-year – and $3.5 billion of the group’s $17.8 billion revenue – up 3%.

For the full year, the region contributed Ebit of $5.8 billion to the group's $19.9 billion, which was up 13% year-on-year. Asia accounted for $15 billion of the group's $76.4 billion revenues – up 2%.

Revenues in the consumer business rose 17% in China, 15% in India, 7% in Hong Kong and 7% in Singapore, while expenses fell 3%.

“We raised close to $120 billion for Asian clients from international capital markets in 2013, including a record $84 billion for debt issuers,” Bird wrote.

The numbers do make encouraging reading, especially as the global picture didn’t look so positive.

Group fourth-quarter net profit rose 21 per cent to $2.69 billion, or $0.85 per diluted share, with analysts on average expecting $0.95 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The disparity is primarily down to a 15% drop in fixed-income trading, which lagged rivals.

So, a sizeable jump but not enough for analysts, meaning the stock dropped 4% on the news.

“Although we didn’t finish the year as strongly as we would have liked, we made substantial progress toward our key priorities in 2013,” Michael Corbat, chief executive, said in a statement.

It is good – for Citi and the region – that Asia remains one of those priorities.

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