U.S. looks to sell last of its Citi common shares

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The U.S. Treasury set plans to sell the last of its Citigroup Inc. common shares in a $10 billion offering that would cap the government’s biggest bank bailout of the financial-market meltdown.

The stock sale, which could be finalized before the market reopens on Tuesday, could reap a $9.4 billion profit for taxpayers on their $45 billion Citi investment. It also helps the government to quell some of the criticism that it went too far in propping up the financial system, and allows the bank to shake the market stigma that it has effectively been a ward of the state.

“This is a milestone for the government and for Citigroup,” said James Angel, a finance professor at Georgetown University. If the deal is completed successfully, “it signals the company has been fully privatized and that their parole is over.”

The Treasury, which a year ago set plans to exit the Citi investment within six to 12 months, had fallen behind that target as it executed plans to “dribble out” its 7.7 billion Citi shares, a 27% stake, in steady sales into the market. Through October, it had only sold 4.4 billion shares.

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