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) --


(C) - Get Citigroup Inc. Report

has about 10 days to begin repaying $20 billion of bailout funds or it will have to wait until after it reports fourth-quarter earnings in mid-January, a report says.

Citigroup has until the middle of next week to begin a capital-raising effort to pay back funds received from the U.S. government's Troubled Assets Relief Program or it would become practically impossible to do so, people close to the situation told the

Financial Times


Lawyers told the newspaper it wasn't technically impossible to raise funds between the end of a quarter and the announcement of earnings, but disclosure rules could make it difficult.

It was reported last week by


that Citigroup's desire to pay back the bailout money was being held up by the Treasury Department's refusal to sell its 34% stake in the bank.

People close to the situation told the

Financial Times

the government was willing to coordinate a sale of at least part of its stake with Citigroup's own capital-raising but authorities' continued concerns over Citigroup's health could delay that.

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Citigroup declined to comment for the

Financial Times

but insiders acknowledged that unless it could launch a share offering by Dec. 14 or Dec. 15, the bank would probably have to wait until at least late January.

A U.S. Treasury Department official on Sunday night wouldn't confirm any specific discussions with Citigroup but noted that other banks have stepped forward since

Bank of America's

(BAC) - Get Bank of America Corp Report

announcement last week that it was

paying back

$45 billion in bailout money it got TARP,



-- Reported by Joseph Woelfel in New York


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