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商业 - 金融

花旗掌门人:美国不会重陷衰退

Scott Cendrowski 2011年10月14日

潘伟迪相信美国不会重返衰退。他对占领华尔街者也有话要说:我理解你们。

    花旗集团(Citigroup)首席执行官潘伟迪说,我们不会重返衰退。

    “我不认为美国将陷入衰退,”周三早间潘伟迪在接受《财富》(Fortune)杂志主编赛安迪的采访时如是说。“经济增速可能不如我们期望的那样,但我认为不会有倒退。”

    作为一个大型银行的首席执行官,潘伟迪发表这番言论的时机颇为尴尬。经济危机爆发三年之后,占领华尔街的抗议者们再度瞄准了华尔街高管们。事实上如潘伟迪所说,Twitter上有消息称抗议者们计划前往他在曼哈顿的公寓示威。潘伟迪称他本人理解抗议者们面对高失业率、高政府负债和经济放缓时产生的沮丧情绪。“人们的心情完全可以理解,”他说,“经济复苏不如我们所有人的预期。”

    花旗股价剧烈震荡之际,近几周潘伟迪接受了一系列采访,周三是最新的一个采访。今年以来,花旗股价已跌去41%,仅仅过去三个月已从40美元跌至23美元,周三跃升回28美元。该股当前股价仅为有形账面价值的0.6倍。

    “你知道在眼下这样的市场,很难衡量到底是什么在推动股价,”潘伟迪称,“特别是眼下人们信心受损。”

    潘伟迪多次谈到,自从几年前金融危机令花旗濒于破产以来,花旗集团已“回到了银行业务的根本”,但投资者似乎并不相信。花旗集团投资者们可能正在将欧洲违约、市场震荡持续、全球经济增速放缓以及美国再次陷入衰退等一系列不利因素可能给该行造成的影响进行建模和再建模分析。他们面对的是一支股价已经跌回到2009年年中水平的银行股。当时,花旗还没有剔除3,000多亿美元的不良资产,美国政府也还远未售罄其在该公司的bailout stake。

    举例来说,法国农业信贷银行(Credit Agricole)分析师迈克•梅奥认为,如果美国和其他地区的贷款不能有实质性增长,2011年下半年花旗的销售收入环比将下降3%。与此同时,由于企业界都在等待市场震荡的结束,投行业务中利润丰厚的承销收入可能缩减50%,并购费也处于停滞状态。

    当然,潘伟迪并不想让自己听上去好像对大量的经济放缓迹象一无所知。他暗示,花旗正在重拾支出审慎的传统美德,因为公司正竭力兑现承诺,明年将通过股票回购或增加派息将更多资本回报给投资者。

    周三,潘伟迪提醒读者们,花旗集团抵押贷款组合的规模在美国各大银行中处于末流。花旗正在新兴市场大力发展银行机构,这些地区向花旗贡献了超过一半的净利润。而且,由于无法放出足够多的优质贷款,花旗的资产负债表上有25%是现金和现金等价物。

    潘伟迪在周三的访谈中还间接提到了花旗的桑迪•韦尔时代。他告诉读者们,2007年他接任首席执行官一职时,“有一点我认为很清楚,成为一家金融超市不是一个(好的)战略。”事实上,上个十年曾占据美国银行业头把交椅的花旗集团目前只居于第三位,排在美国银行(Bank of America)和摩根大通(JP Morgan)之后。

    潘伟迪还告诉读者们,他支持所谓的沃尔克法则(Volcker rule),这项法则将限制银行以自有资金对股票和债券进行投机。法则草案上周遭到泄密,潘伟迪称花旗庞大的法律团队仍在对草案进行分析。但他表示,“我觉得,他们可能已在两方面都找到了适当的平衡。”

    Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit says we're not headed back into a downturn.

    "I don't expect the U.S. to go into a recession," Pandit said Wednesday morning during a wide-ranging interview with Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer. "It may not grow as much as we like it to grow, but I don't see it slipping back."

    His comments come at an awkward time for a major bank CEO. Occupy Wall Street protesters have put Wall Street executives back in the crosshairs three years after the economic collapse. As Pandit spoke, in fact, some Twitter messages said protesters planned to march to his Manhattan apartment. For his part, Pandit said he recognizes protesters' frustration with high unemployment, huge government debts, and a slowing economy. "Their sentiments are completely understandable," he says. "The economic recovery is not what we all want it to be."

    Wednesday's talk was the latest in a string of interviews Pandit has given over the past few weeks as Citi's stock thrashes about. This year shares have fallen 41%, and in just the past three months they dropped from $40 to $23 before sprinting back to $28 today. The stock trades for just 0.6 times tangible book value.

    "You know, in markets like these, it's very hard to gauge exactly what drives stock prices," says Pandit, "particularly as people's confidence gets affected."

    Pandit said repeatedly that Citigroup had gotten "back to the basics of banking" since the financial crisis put it on the brink of failure several years ago, but investors don't seem to believe that story yet. Citigroup (C) investors are probably modeling, and re-modeling, the bank's exposure to a European default, continued market volatility, slower global economic growth, and another recession hitting the U.S. What they come up with is a bank stock worth the same as it was in mid-2009, before Citi had rid itself of more than $300 billion worth of bad assets and well before the U.S. government had sold off its bailout stake in the company.

    Credit Agricole analyst Mike Mayo, for one, thinks without meaningful loan growth in the U.S. and elsewhere, Citi's sales in the second half of 2011 will drop by 3% compared to the first half of the year. Meanwhile, lucrative investment banking revenues for underwriting could decline by 50% and M&A fees are also on hold as companies wait out the market tumult.

    Of course, Pandit doesn't want to sound out of touch with signs of an economic slowdown abound, and he's hinted that good old expense prudence is coming to Citi as it tries to make good on its promise to return more capital to investors next year through share buybacks or a dividend hike.

    On Wednesday, Pandit reminded the audience that Citigroup has among the smallest mortgage portfolios of any major U.S. bank. It's building banks in emerging markets, where Citi earns more than half its bottom line. And it's holding 25% of its balance sheet in cash and cash equivalents because the bank just can't write enough good loans.

    In an oblique reference to Citi's Sandy Weill era, Pandit told the audience Wednesday that when he took over as CEO in late 2007, "it was pretty clear to me that being a supermarket wasn't a strategy." Indeed, Citi is now only the third-largest bank in the U.S. behind Bank of America (BAC) and JP Morgan Chase (JPM) after holding the top spot for the last decade.

    Pandit also told the audience he supported the so-called Volcker rule, which would restrict banks from speculating on stocks and bonds with their own capital. A draft of the rule was leaked last week and Pandit said Citi's army of legal minds was still parsing it. But, he said, it "sounds to me like they may have struck the right balance on both sides."

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