Citigroup to buy Wachovia’s banking

Published 12:39 pm Monday, September 29, 2008

In the latest byproduct of the widening global financial crisis, Citigroup Inc. will acquire the banking operations of Wachovia Corp. in a deal facilitated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Citigroup will absorb up to $42 billion of losses in the deal, with the FDIC covering any remaining losses, the government agency said Monday. Citigroup also will grant the FDIC $12 billion in preferred stock and warrants.

The deal greatly expands Citigroup’s retail outlets and leaves it among the U.S. banking industry’s Big Three along with Bank of America Corp. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

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The deal comes after a fevered weekend courtship in which Citigroup and Wells Fargo & Co. both were reportedly studying the books of Wachovia, which was suffering from mounting mortgage losses linked to its ill-timed 2006 acquisition of mortgage lender Golden West Financial Corp.

The FDIC asserted that Wachovia didn’t fail, and that all depositors are protected and there will be no cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, in a statement Monday, said he supports the ‘‘timely actions’’ taken by the FDIC ‘‘which demonstrate our government’s unwavering commitment to financial and economic stability.’’

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson also welcomed the sale of Wachovia to Citigroup, saying it would ‘‘mitigate potential market disruptions.’’ Paulson said he agreed with the FDIC and the Fed that a ‘‘failure of Wachovia would have posed a systemic risk’’ to the nation’s financial system.

‘‘As I have said before, in this period of market stress, we are committed to taking all actions necessary to protect our financial system and our economy,’’ Paulson said.

The sale of the Wachovia assets comes just days after the government’s seizure of Seattle-based Washington Mutual Inc. — the largest bank failure in U.S. history. As details of its takeover unfolded, Wachovia shares plunged 91 percent in Monday premarket trading to 91 cents. The stock had closed Friday at $10, down 74 percent for the year.

Wachovia has been among the banks hardest hit by the ongoing crisis in the mortgage market. It paid roughly $25 billion for Golden West at the height of the nation’s housing boom. With that purchase, Wachovia inherited a deteriorating $122 billion portfolio of Pick-A-Payment loans, Golden West’s specialty, which let borrowers skip some payments.