Citigroup Beats Bank of America at Catering to REITs


Citigroup has been taking it on the chin since its disappointing fourth-quarter results, reflecting what newly installed CEO Michael Corbat called a "noisy quarter."

But not is all doom and gloom for the big bank. The Wall Street Journal reports that Citi took the lead in equity underwriting for real estate investment trusts, booting former champ Bank of America down to second place.

A big effort that paid off
Citi worked hardto get the underwriting business of the REITs, many of which were already loan customers of the bank. By letting these customers know they were willing to do more, however, the new business developed naturally.

The new strategy paid off, and Citi rose from the No. 6 position on the REIT equity underwriters list in 2011 to first place for last year. B of A Merrill Lynch dropped to No. 2 spot based on the value of the transactions, despite participating in a greater number of deals. Morgan Stanley suffered a steeper decline, falling from the No. 2 spot in 2011 to the tenth slot in 2012, while Goldman Sachs moved up to fifth place last year, up from Morgan Stanley's new berth.

As the Journal notes, REIT business is very lucrative for these banks because of their need to consistently raise capital. REITs are required by law to pay out 90% of their income to investors, or risk losing their unique tax status.

A return to the good old days for Citi
Citi was tops in the underwriting business back in 2007, handling more volume than any other bank in the world for that year, as well as the seven previous. At the time, Merrill Lynch ranked No. 4 for volume of work, but took over as No. 1 in the fees department.

Citi holds the No. 1 position for bookrunningin the U.S. equity capital markets for last year, as well, punishing former top dog JPMorgan Chase , which slid to fifth place in 2012. Citi advised on transactions valued at over $30 billion for the year. In this list, B of A Merrill Lynch maintained its No. 3 ranking.

One Fool's take
B of A Merrill's dip isn't dramatic, and likely won't affect the massive bank's bottom line. Citi's rise is quite spectacular, however, and indicates a can-do attitude that deserves recognition. New CEO Corbat has said that the bank is "heading in the right direction." It certainly looks like he is right.

Citi is working to repair the damage done by earlier mistakes, something that should be lauded. Still, problems exist, and the new CEO is as yet untried. Should investors be treading carefully, or jumping on an opportunity to buy, considering how cheap the stock looks? To help figure out whether Citigroup deserves a spot on your watchlist, I invite you to read our premium research report on the bank today. We'll fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Citigroup, and what areas that Citigroup investors need to watch going forward. Click here now for instant access to our best expert's take on Citigroup.

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