Join us here starting at 8:30 for LIVE coverage of Citi’s Q1 conference call. The earnings report can be found here. See the presentation materials below.
8:30 am: We have Ned Kelly, Citi’s CFO, but not Vikram Pandit on the line. Already a divergence from JPM, which had the CEO on the line.
8:32 am: Kelly begins by thanking Gary Crittenden. There’s a bit of obnoxiousness in this corporate back-scratching.. He chuckles a bit about how hard things have been for Crittenden.
8:35 am: Kelly is running through slides. It’s MEGO time.
8:41 am: One thing that is striking is the difference between the way Citi and JPM talk. Kelly is obviously reading from a script and much of what he says is so obscure that it is not only unquotable but incomprenhensible to anyone but an expert in Citi’s balance sheet. JPM, on the other hand, managed to sound comprehensible and, therefore, candid. When someone is talking jibberish, it’s hard not to think they are pulling something over on you.
8:42: Probably the thing that will get the most talk after this call is that Citi took a $2.5 billion gain on the decline in the market value of its debt. This is an unrealized gain, meaning Citi didn’t actually purchase its debt. But because it could, it gets to record an accounting gain. Without this, Citi would have lost $900 million this quarter.
8:50: Citi explains that its future performance will depend on economic conditions. Trading gains are highly unpredictable, etc. Repricing of credit card portfolio will mitigate…zzzz. Make it stop. Please.
8:53: “We’ve moved several assets into accrual accounts” and that will improve performance. I think this is the mark-to-market effect. Citi is basically disclosing that its accounting performance will be better because it doesn’t have to mark many classes of assets to market anymore.
8:55: The exchange offer will have to wait until after the stress test is complete. But the pricing will remain the same.
9:00: Questions and answers begins. Kelly begins by saying he’s been through an immersion process that might make it difficult form him to answer some of the questions.
9:01: Guy M. first, as always. Asks about credit card reserves, which have declined. How’d that happen? Kelly tells Guy that credit cards came in better than expected, outpacing loss reserves already made.
9:07: Mike Mayo, now of Calyon, asks the third question. Why isn’t Vikram on the call? Kelly says we shouldn’t read into it at all. Except that it’s hard not too. What’s old Vik doing that’s more important than this? Or does Citi think he’s got such a bad public manner that he’s best kept out of the way?
9:10: Meredith Whitney asks about the trends in the mortgage portfolio. How much was the effect of foreclosure forebearance? Not much at all, Kelly says.
9:11: MW: Why did European business do so well this quarter? There’s a discussion about whether this is an accounting effect and everyone agrees it isn’t. Fixed income did very well in Europe, apparently.
9:16: A question on assets transfered from mark-to-market to held to maturity. Kelly says Citi moved $29 billion, and wrote up $540 million on the value.
9:22: Goldman’s analyst asks why the stress test is delaying the exchange offering? Kelly says he’s been told by the government to keep quiet about the stress test. But, in general, he says that its prudent to delay the exchange while there is an event of great intereset to the market in the offing.
9:36: Everyone in the world is focussed on Citi’s accounting. There’s an amazing lack of trust in the bank’s numbers. Bloomberg’s top article on the earnings, for instance, prominently mentions the $2.5 billion accounting gain from the decline in the price in Citi’s debt.
9:40: Will Citi participate in the P-PIP? Kelly says the bank is watching it closely, and will analyse details that it expects to be forthcoming. Interestingly, the $300 billion of assets that are already guaranteed against losses will have an impact on the decision. Why sell assets the government is already covering against losses? So does this mean neither JPM nor Citi will be part of the P-PIP?
9:42: And we’re done. Thank God Almighty, we are done at last.
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