Citigroup Has Exited the Woods: Poll

Citigroup has turned the corner, found its footing, put the worst behind it and safely taken leave of the woods, according to readers of <I>TheStreet</I>, that is.
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(Citigroup poll-results item updated to include detail on the government's plan to shed a portion of its stake in the megabank)

NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) --

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

is going to be OK: The ayes have it.

On a week when the troubled megabank held its

annual meeting

and

reported first-quarter results

that surprised the land with their robustness, we asked readers of

TheStreet

if this meant that

Citigroup had found its footing

, turned the corner, taken leave of the woods.

Choose your own cliche.

And then, just on Monday, the Treasury Department said it would continue the process of recouping the rest of its $45 billion bailout of Citigroup by

selling a big chunk of its stake in the bank

. Among the winners in such a deal? Evidently taxpayers, which could see a $2 billion-plus profit on the transaction, and certainly

Morgan Stanley

(MS) - Get Report

, which the government chose to conduct the sale.

The news put pressure on Citigroup shares Monday -- they were falling 19 cents, or 4%, to $4.67 in recent action -- though any move by the government to unwind its link-up with the bank must represent a long-term positive for Citi and its shareholders.

Citigroup had come to represent the idea of the banking "supermarket" that had so enamored Wall Street since the 1990s, courtesy of one Sanford Weill. With everything from high-end M&A advisory services to underwriting to hedge funds to credit cards to retail bank branches under one roof, Citigroup had also come to symbolize the collapse of Wall Street in the wake of the financial crisis.

After all, it was the repeal of Glass-Steagall (or the key parts of the act, in 1999) that made the existence of Citigroup possible, not to mention

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

.

And with President Obama pushing hard for financial-industry reform -- and, by many accounts,

using the SEC's fraud case against Goldman as the bayonet's point

-- the question of Citigroup's future, and just what sort of bank emerges after all is said and done, remains as relevant to the fate of high finance as any other.

Just on Friday, the notion that the megabank had turned the corner came under a bit of fire, at least symbolically, as

Citigroup's stock price couldn't hang on above a key $5 level

, despite bullish momentum that has driven the shares up 7% since it released its quarterly report, and 50% for the year.

Indeed, it's been an eventful week, full of conference calls, media huzzahs, tender offers for sub notes, fixed-income investor presentations by Citigroup's finance chief ... and of course

TheStreet

polls.

The long and the short of it: Citigroup chieftain Vikram Pandit continues with his long-term project to sell off assets and business segments, retire debt, and scale down the balance sheet. But the central-most concern remains: How will Citigroup continue cutting back on leverage -- the very engine that powers banking profits, even post-crisis -- and, at the same time, register earnings growth that will satisfy investors?

Survey takers, for their part, are an optimistic bunch -- as well as, most likely, Citigroup shareholders. Whatever the case, the results were overwhelming. Of the roughly 1,500 votes in our poll, a whopping 1,200, or 81%, believe that the worst is over for Citigroup.

As for that other naysaying 19%?

Clearly, they're short.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

RELATED STORIES:

>>Poll: Is Citigroup Out of the Woods?

>>Citigroup Falls Short in Quest for $5 Finish

>>Citi's Pandit Keeps Optimism in Check

>>Citigroup Building Up Momentum

>>Citigroup's Annual Meeting: Live Blog

>>Citigroup Posts Surprise Profit

Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.