) --


(C) - Get Report

CEO Vikram Pandit reiterated this week that the slimmed down financial institution is poised for "sustainable profitability" and "responsible growth."

According to an internal memo issued to employees late Monday and obtained by


, Pandit reflected on the turnaround the company has made.

Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit

Through the company's efforts of trimming unwanted assets and concentrating on core businesses, this year the company is expected to post is first annual profit since the financial crisis began in 2007.

Analysts, on average, expect the company to post earnings of 8 cents a share for the December-ending quarter and a profit of 39 cents for 2010. Citi reports fourth quarter and full-year earnings on Jan. 18.

"External audiences are starting to give us the recognition we have earned. Our credit spreads have tightened, analysts increasingly like what they see, and the public is starting to acknowledge the many signs of real progress," Pandit said in the memo.

"All of this is the result of your efforts to restructure this company -- efforts that so far have yielded the progress we all hoped they would. The past three years have been challenging, but I believe we now have in place all the elements for sustained profitability and responsible growth," he added.

Though in December of 2009, the still-struggling institution was able to repurchase $20 billion in trust-preferred securities owned by the government. At the time Citi and the government also cancelled its $300 billion plus

loss-sharing agreement

established in 2008 as part of its bailout plan.

However, the U.S. Treasury Department still had a large outstanding stake in Citi common stock.

Through a series of open market sales this year, the government was able to exit that stake, garnering a profit return for taxpayers of $12 billion, or 27%. (The government still owns warrants and other trust preferred securities.)

Despite the progress, the company still has a long ways to go.

As of Sept. 30, it still had $421 billion of unwanted assets on its balance sheet as part of

Citi Holdings

, its so-called bad bank.

Those assets are down by roughly half from a peak in the beginning of 2008, but the company has its work cut out for it, even with signs that the markets are opening up for asset sales.

Its stock, while up roughly 45% for the year, and

analysts' becoming ever more bullish

on it, still falls under the crucial $5 mark.

And unlike other large-cap banks including

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report


Wells Fargo

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U.S. Bancorp

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, Citi is not about to start

returning capital to shareholders until 2012

-- at the earliest.

"The successes of this year significantly add to the transformation and rebirth of our company, " Pandit said. "We have a great deal of hard work ahead - hard work that I believe can and should lead to even better years in the future."

Separately, Citi said Tuesday that it is investigating

"suspicious transactions"

by an employee in one of its branches in India.

Citi shares were trading fairly flat on Tuesday at $4.78.

--Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.