Citigroup (NYSE:C) buried the lede.
On slide 14 of a 14-slide presentation that Citi provided for its shareholders after the release of the Dodd-Frank stress tests, the bank revealed that it did not ask the Federal Reserve to let it raise its dividend beyond the token $0.01-per-quarter level. Citi is looking to initiate share buybacks, but only enough to, as the company put it, "offset estimated dilution created by annual incentive compensation grants."
I'm not so sure that Citi investors should be disappointed about this, though. Earlier today, I pointed out that this is Mike Corbat's first go-round with the process as CEO of Citi, and asking for too much would've caused more trouble than it was worth. If he can successfully put the company back on a healthy growth path, the dividends will come, in time. If you're planning to be a long-term Citi investor, you're going to have to have patience one way or another.
If you put the dividend aside, there is good reason for Citi investors to be fired up following the stress-test results. The bank's stress-test minimum level of tier 1 common capital came in at the high end of the big-four banks: Citi, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM), and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC).
So, we could say that not only did Citi pass the Dodd-Frank portion of the stress tests, but it passed with flying colors.
As we look ahead to the results next week from the Fed's Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR), there seems little chance that Citi will fail that either, particularly considering its meager capital-return request. On the one hand, that's a positive -- repeating the slip-up from last year's stress tests would be far from ideal -- but the fact that the company's request is so low could be concerning. My view, though, is that this is likely just Corbat erring on the side of conservatism. Being so new in the job, there seems little reason to swing for the fences now.
Of course, speaking of Corbat being new at the job ... One really interesting question that Citi shareholders could be asking themselves right now is whether they should be thanking Corbat or former CEO Vik Pandit for the capital position that the bank currently finds itself in.