Citi Masks Crashing Mortgage, Trading Revenues With $3.8 Billion Settlement Charge

Earlier today, moments after hearing that Citi would incur a near-record $3.8 billion Q2 charge as part of a $7 billion settlement for the US investigation into its fraudulent MBS sales in the pre-Lehman period, an announcement which came literally minutes before its Q2 earnings announcement, we knew precisely what was about to happen:

Sure enough, moments after we sent this out we learned that Citi magically beats consensus EPS of $1.05, reporting a non-GAAP number of $1.24. The only problem: reported GAAP EPS was a laughable $0.03. Where did the bulk of the company's net income come from? Why the "one-time, non-recurring charge" of course: $1.21 of the $1.24 in Citi EPS was thanks to the "punishment" the government just served it with.

And since Wall Street, all of it in the same boat as well, does not care about actual numbers based in reality, but merely pro forma adjustments, such as this one which was a kitchen sink addback for Citi, allowing it to generate $3.8 billion in pro forma "Net Income" when in reality none of this is an actual cash flow item, and certainly does not benefit the balance sheet, Citi stock is now a solid 3% higher on, well, magic!

In reality what happened: Citi's revenues dipped 4%, and 5% for Citicorp excluding Citi Holdings.

 

But the real slaughter appears when one looks at the bank's core operations. First, consumer banking, where we see that Retail Banking cratered 26% Y/Y to $1.2 billion due to "lower mortgage refinancing activity"

Maybe at least the bank's Net Interest Margin rose to compensate for the loss in volume? Nope. At 2.87% this was the lowest NIM since Q3 2013.

Ok fine, everyone knows that in the new normal banks no longer lend: they are merely FDIC insured FICC and equity trading desks. So how did trading revenues look? In a word, abysmal! As the table below shows, equity market revenues crarted 25% Q/Q and 26% Y/Y while the all important FICC was down 12% Y/Y and a whopping 22% Q/Q. The scapegoat? "Fixed Income Markets down 12% YoY on historically low volatility and decline in volumes... Equity Markets down 26% YoY and 25% QoQ reflecting lower client activity and weak trading performance in EMEA."

In other words, aside from mortgage activity and trading, Citi is doing just great. Sure enough, the piggybank which banks use every quarter to pad earnings performed quite well: as the company reported, in Q2 about $700 million in "Net Income" was the result of loan loss reserve releases, $23 million more than a quarter ago, when bank after bank promised they would taper abusing reserve release as a source of Net Income. It also goes without saying that absent this traditional gimmick, Citi's Gaap EPS of $0.03 would have been wildly negative.

Finally, perhaps at least the company is seeing something better in the numbers above than us, and is preparing for that imminent revenue surge by way of boosting hiring and expanding its labor force? Nope.

Source: Citi