Citigroup reported one of the largest quarterly losses in its history on Tuesday and Wall Street didn’t flinch.
The New York bank says the more than $18 billion loss in the fourth quarter was related to the new federal tax law, which lowered the value of assets it has used to offset some of its taxes and also forced it to pay taxes on profits it has held overseas. Together, the provisions translated into a $22 billion one-time charge, which wiped out all of Citigroup’s 2017 profits.
But for Citigroup, the fourth-largest U.S. bank by assets, the loss is just a hiccup.
Citigroup and other large U.S. banks are expected to be the biggest beneficiaries of the law over time. But some are reporting significant one-time charges as they adjust to the new standards. Last week, JPMorgan Chase took a $2.4 billion charge in the fourth quarter because of the law.
The biggest culprit is the billions in what are known as deferred tax assets held by many banks after the financial crisis. After reporting massive losses, the banks accumulated these assets, which could then be used to pay future income taxes. Because the Republican-crafted tax law lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, the assets are now worth less, leaving some banks to record a charge.
Citigroup wrote off $18 billion of those assets in the fourth quarter.
The bank, which has significant operations overseas, also took a $3 billion charge on foreign earnings it will bring back to the United States and on which it will pay taxes.
But Citigroup and its shareholders appear focused on the long-term potential windfall from the tax law. It will help lower the bank’s tax rate from about 30 percent to 25 percent, potentially saving Citigroup billions over the next few years, industry analysts have said. It will also lead to higher profits and increased returns, according to Citi CEO Michael Corbat.
“Tax reform is a clear net positive for Citi and its shareholders,” Corbat said in a call with analysts.
Without the one-time charge, Citigroup’s quarterly results would have beaten analysts’ estimates. The bank’s quarterly profit, excluding the one-time charge, was $3.7 billion, compared with $3.6 billion for the same period in 2016. Quarterly revenue increased about 1 percent to $17.3 billion. The bank is also still on track to return $60 billion to shareholders through 2020.
The company’s stock price was up almost 1 percent Tuesday, closing at about $77 a share. It has risen more than 30 percent over the past year.
Citing the lower tax rates, Ken Leon of CFRA Research raised his profit expectations for the bank. Citigroup won’t benefit as much from the lower tax rate as some of its competitors because it has significant overseas operations in places where corporate tax rates are already lower, including Asia and Mexico, he said.
“That means that Citi is going to have to look to execution,” said Leon, adding that the bank’s credit card business could help drive growth.