Citi Seeks To Sell Phibro

Oct 8 2009 | 1:24am ET

Citigroup hopes to sell its highly-profitable proprietary commodities trading group, in part to avoid a backlash at a firm that received billions in government bailout money paying its head a promised $100 million bonus.

The financial services giant has kicked around several options for the group, known as Phibro, including a spin-off as an independent hedge fund. But Citi has settled on trying to sell the unit outright, a move which could net it several hundred million dollars, although it would also deprive it of a business line that’s earned about $2 billion over the past five years.

At issue is Citi’s contract with Andrew Hall, the head of Phibro. That deal guarantees Hall at $100 million bonus, a fact that has become an issue as Citi’s receipt of the bailout money makes it subject to the government’s pay czar, who must approve such huge pay packages. Hall himself has pushed for “a quiet divorce” from Citi, apparently not wanting to become the poster-boy for such controversial payouts.

Citi has held talks with potential buyers, the Financial Times reports, but no deal is imminent. If an outright buyer can’t be found, Citi would likely seek to sell a majority stake in Phibro.

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