Citigroup’s Accounting and Najib’s Political Creativity

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Apr 19 2009
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Let’s clear the confusion on this company called Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C, stock) which suddenly attracted all the cheers from the trading floor because the financial giant had done something extraordinary and awesome – it made money. However I thought you should know the creative accounting behind this great story although I believe many saw through it judging from the stock price that plunged almost 9% after it gapped up right after the earnings result. This is the same way the current Najib’s administration desperately trying to save his day via creative political game.Penanti BN Chicken OutIt makes perfect sense to chicken out now on the excuse that it was a political-ploy rather than sending another candidate to get slaughtered and score another loss. At least Najib’s administration can claim they didn’t lose at all. Sure, if you didn’t contest in the first place how can you lose? Brilliant isn’t it? But was this another tactic by Najib’s advisers to prevent further humiliation (of another defeat) to the newly installed prime minister? If yes, then this is definitely not a very clever strategy as it would strengthen people’s perception that the ruling government is so weak (and coward) that the only thing it dares to do was =”color:#ff0000;”>stupidly planted 19 young trees around Pakatan Rakyat’s “Democracy Tree” to deter another new memorial plaque from being re-erected. It seems the new administration has found many creative ways in strenghtening the wall of denial syndrome – Bravo!First of all there’s nothing wrong to celebrate Citigroup’s latest result because the institution was ailing with losses and had consumed three bailouts from Washington costing $45 billion of taxpayer money. You may call it smokescreen or an attempt to create an impression that U.S. banks (together with Wells Fargo & Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.) are stabilizing and recovering so that investors will start pouring their money in them thus minimizing the need for more taxpayer money (or rather bailouts). Citigroup posted its first profitable quarter in 18 months mainly because traditionally first quarter was a busy quarter with huge business transactions.

Citigroup Creative AccountingBut that’s not all. Citigroup actually employed creative but legal accounting tactics (or rather gimmicks) to increase its reported earnings. Using “Credit Value Adjustment”, Citigroup actually added a cool $2.7 billion to the company’s bottom line for the quarter which appeared on the accounting book as “net income”. In a nutshell, Citigroup’s debt has lost value in the bond market because of concerns about the company’s financial health. However under accounting rules (it’s legal dude), Citigroup was allowed to book a one-time gain approximately equivalent to that decline because, in theory, it could buy back its debt cheaply in the open market. Of course Citigroup did not actually buy its debt but who cares.

Citigroup also took advantage of beneficial changes in accounting rules related to toxic securities that have not traded in months – they (the banks) now can book only a “portion of the loss” from the value of certain “impaired assets” as compared to “full loss” previously. Citigroup actually saw a sudden surge of $413 million after-tax profits by doing so. Citigroup also allocate a smaller amount for NPL (non-performing-loans) hence putting more money as “profit”. Desperate time requires desperate measures but it’s equally important for you to know the truths so that you won’t get carry away with the accounting creativity. Talk about creativity, it’s amazing how much the new PM Najib has learned and applied it in his political survival series.

Make no mistake about it. Najib’s propaganda and slogan “One-Malaysia” didn’t work as according to the plan, thanks to extreme factors from government-controlled Utusan Malaysia and certain extremist politicians. Najib and his mentor Mahathir are probably still putting all the jigsaw puzzles to the blue-print and framework to ensure UMNO’s relevance and survival come next general election. Najib’s “One-Malaysia” concept is actually an excellent and creative piece of art, if today was the year 1980(s), the decade when Mahathir rules the land. Unfortunately just like Chinese Feng Shui, Mahathir’s Midas-Touch has reached its expiry date. Everyone is waiting eagerly if the legendary Mahathir would help his Najib in the coming by-election campaign in Penanti. But it seems Najib is playing safe by announcing that his government may chicken-out from the by-election after all.

Najib Prohibitive WordsDespite what many claims, it’s untrue that the new PM has lost his guts for refusing to meet the opposition inside the ring for the fight. After losing the two Bukits by-election Najib was actually trying to save public money, at least that was what the BN’s media is drumming. It was indeed a brave move *grin* by Najib as he was willing to be booed in exchange for millions of dollars saved by refusing to go to the battle, never mind it was actually the police that had used 5 (five) to 20 (twenty) times the money as compared to Election Commission for each of the previous 5 by-elections. For example while Election Commission only used RM580,000 the police actually used a whopping RM11.5 million in Kuala Terengganu by-election. The creative reason for Najib’s refusal to enter the ring for Penanti by-election – it was opposition’s political ploy *huh?*. This is both laughable and puzzling considering that this is the chance for BN to wrestle back the seat from the opposition unless of course, BN has zero confidence. This is perhaps the first time in the history of the country that the ruling government is not participating in a by-election.

Najib’s creativity has taken another level when it was learned that all the government-controlled TVs are prohibited from mentioning the PM’s name, his wife’s name and even his adviser Razak Baginda in relation to Mongolian beauty Altantuya’s murder. Nevertheless nothing beats the creativity of Election Commission when it was reported

that the supposedly independent body is toying with the idea of limiting the number of supporters allowed at nomination and polling centres. Apparently the body is upset that somehow the opposition coalition’s supporters “always” drown the ruling government’s supporters in most of the past by-elections. The ruling government may felt intimidated and frustrated by the huge voluntary supports garnered by the opposition but the voice on the ground is the new administration does not have confident at all in the Penanti by-election.

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How on earth Citigroup can make profits when they still need bailouts from the government not long ago. Just like you said, really creative accounting. The market seems to like the news so much and up so much in just a few weeks.

Dear Stocktube,
Oh how much i hate those ‘creative’ accountants. And the F(ailed)1 p(re)m(enopause)is at par with them aye…i wonder why they allowed the chicken price recently to ‘blind’ us how dignified are they the chicken themselves…Have a great Monday Mr Stocktube! Thanks for the morning laughter!

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