Citigroup near sale of $12 billion loans: sources

NEW YORK Wed Apr 9, 2008 7:27am EDT

1 of 2. Men walk past a Citibank sign outside its Tokyo branch November 5, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Citigroup Inc (C.N), the largest U.S. bank, is close to selling about $12 billion of leveraged loans and bonds to a group of private equity firms, people familiar with the situation said on Tuesday.

The sale would be to private equity firms including Apollo Group, Blackstone Group LP (BX.N) and TPG, at an average price slightly below 90 cents on the dollar, the people said.

Apollo would buy about half of the debt, while Blackstone and TPG would each buy about one-fourth of it, one of the people said. A sale could be made final by the time Citigroup reports first-quarter results on April 18, the people said.

Citigroup, Apollo, Blackstone and TPG declined to comment. The possible sale was earlier reported by the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal.

The average price for the most liquid leveraged loan was 90.47 cents on the dollar on Tuesday, Reuters LPC said.

A sale could help New York-based Citigroup dent its exposure to leveraged loans, which totaled about $43 billion at year's end. Further sales are possible, one of the people said.

Like other banks, Citigroup issued the debt to help finance leveraged buyouts. Last summer's credit crunch caused investors to stop buying much of this debt, leaving lenders stuck holding the debt on its books, often at below face value.

Last month, Oppenheimer & Co analyst Meredith Whitney estimated that 10 major investment banks, including Citigroup, had about $197 billion of leveraged lending exposure.

The industry's exposure has dropped since the start of the credit crunch last summer.

Private equity firms, meanwhile, are looking for other ways to deploy cash amid a dearth of buyout opportunities. Earlier Tuesday, Washington Mutual Inc (WM.N) said it received a $7 billion capital infusion, including $2 billion from TPG.

Shares of Citigroup rose 67 cents to $24.43 in after-hours electronic trading. They fell 84 cents during the day.

(Reporting by Megan Davies, Jonathan Stempel and Dan Wilchins, and by Faris Khan of Reuters LPC; Editing by Carol Bishopric, Phil Berlowitz)

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