Citi Buys Over $6 Billion in UK 'Bad Bank Loans' From Financial Crisis Era

Jon C. Ogg

Most of the outstanding bad loans and problem mortgages from the financial crisis era have matured, been wiped out or been purchased over the past decade. The Great Recession was not just a U.S. issue, and Europe continues to fight to find its way toward resuming growth. And Brexit isn’t helping matters for the United Kingdom.

It turns out that billions of dollars worth of bad loans dating back to the financial crisis are still being held by central banks. The U.K. Treasury announced that it has sold £4.9 billion (about U.S.$6.4 billion) worth of loans that it had acquired from the taxpayer during the financial crisis.

The sale of bad loan assets that were formerly part of Northern Rock, noted as being mortgages and unsecured loans, was approved following a competitive auction. Two portfolios of mortgages will be sold to Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) via Citi locally, and bond manager PIMCO is providing the majority of the deal’s financing.

According to the Chancellor of the U.K. Treasury, this asset sale marks a major milestone in the plan to recover taxpayers’ money and to pay off the country’s debt. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said:

Through our careful oversight of the country’s finances we are continuing to recover significant amounts of money that were loaned during the financial crash… Today’s sale enables us to recover the full amount taxpayers loaned to Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley, helping us pay down our debts and strengthen our finances for the future.

It was also said to protecting the rights of customers with these mortgages. The statement made on Tuesday specified that a key element in selecting the successful bidder was the treatment of customers, and the bidders were all required to agree to a non-negotiable package of customer protections before their bid was considered.

Following this transaction, the U.K. Asset Resolution holding company now owns only about £8 billion worth of assets. That is down from about £14 billion as of September 2018, but it’s down sharply from the £116 billion in assets that it owned in 2010.

While Citigroup was the major winner in the $6.4 billion or so in U.K. asset purchases of mortgages and unsecured loans, Citigroup has a market cap of about $150 billion, and its total assets (including goodwill and other intangibles) was almost $1.92 trillion as of the end of 2018.

The purchase may be too small to move the needle enough to be considered a stock-moving bit of news. Citigroup was last seen trading up fractionally at $64.68, in a 52-week trading range of $48.42 to $75.24.