NEW YORK (
) -- Things may be looking up at
, but don't expect beleaguered CEO Vikram Pandit to get any credit for turning things around at the banking giant.
In an interview with
, longtime Citigroup critic Chris Whalen, managing director with Institutional Risk Analytics, finally had some kind words to say about the bank, but he left Pandit out of the equation.
Whalen proclaimed Citigroup to be "well ahead of
in terms of working their way through the crisis, so kudos to Tim Geithner. I hope Timmy's listening."
Indeed, one big reason Citigroup looks good versus rival banks is that it has raised lots of capital. As the chart below shows, Citigroup's reserve-to-loan ratio is higher than not just Wells and JPMorgan, but eight of the other largest big U.S. banks as well.
That balance-sheet strength is not yet reflected in the share price, however, as Citigroup is cheaper on a price-to-book value basis than all the banks listed except
Bank of America
, with which it is roughly equal. On a price-to-tangible book ratio, Citigroup is the cheapest of the group.
More on Citi Jim Cramer: Thoughts on Citi
Geithner probably does deserve some credit for the fact that Citigroup looks attractive by all of these metrics, since the Treasury chief was presumably behind the push for Citigroup to issue so much equity. There is not a little irony in the notion that Geithner could be seen as an architect of Citigroup's turnaround, since, according to a
The New York Times
last year, former Citigroup boss Sanford Weill approached Geithner about taking over Citigroup's top job while Geithner was Chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.
Geithner also took some hits from
, which together published a story titled "
," while Geithner was awaiting confirmation as Treasury Secretary. It would not be surprising to learn that Geithner took it as a personal mission to turn Citigroup around.
Still, Rochdale Securities analyst Richard Bove rejects the idea that Geithner rather than Pandit should be credited with Citigroup's turnaround, arguing that Geithner was not involved in strategic decisions involving matters such as personnel, which businesses to sell or which to build.
"Ever since Pandit became CEO of Citigroup there has been a concerted effort to attack him and I don't understand why," Bove says, "he's done virtually nothing wrong and he's done a lot of things right."
So what is your view? Does Pandit or Geithner deserve more credit for turning around Citigroup?
Written by Dan Freed in New York