In writing for The Motley Fool, you quickly come to realize that some emails you get aren't really representative of what your average reader thinks. For much of the last year it has felt as though recommending Citigroup (NYSE: C ) has made me about as popular with some folks as if I were eating chili in an elevator. Well, for those of you who feel that way, I'd suggest holding your nose, 'cause I still like this banking behemoth.
Results for the first quarter weren't as great as some reporters seem to want to make you think they were, but they weren't bad either. Revenue from continuing operations was up 5% and profits (also from continuing ops) were up 9%. Not exactly the stuff of legend in my book. Oh sure, they beat the average analyst estimate, but so what?
Anyways, you don't have to look too far or wide to get a fair sense of what went on this quarter. The huge global consumer business had a middling quarter, but it wasn't internally consistent -- meaning that the U.S. business was rather weak while the international business did quite well. While the company is still doing a good job of growing its businesses in places like Latin America and Japan, margin compression continues to be a bugaboo in the U.S.
Looking at the other units, Citigroup followed dutifully in the wake of Bear Stearns (NYSE: BSC ) , Lehman Brothers (NYSE: LEH ) , et al, with its investment banking business. Global wealth management was hurt by expenses related to folding in the newly acquired LeggMason (NYSE: LM ) brokers, and there was a modest decline in alternative investments as well.
It's really tough to do justice to a company like Citigroup in the short space of a Take. So, I'll just skip ahead to the meat of my feelings on the company. Simply put, I still like it. Oh sure, this is a company with ample room for improvement, but I think management finally has religion on that score, and it's not like today's return on equity is terrible. By the same token, you won't make a lot of money on Citigroup (at least in the short run), so this is likely a stock that's more for the patient, slow-growth folks out there.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).