Citigroup ( MER)CEO Chuck Prince may have bought himself a bit of breathing room, as the giant banking conglomerate reported fourth-quarter earnings that slightly exceeded Wall Street expectations.

Prince has been under fire for the past year because Citigroup's stock has lacked most of its main competitors and the bank's domestic consumer banking business has shown meager growth. The lawyer turned chief executive officer has begged investors to give him more time to right Citigroup's ship.

In the quarter, the New York-based lender net earnings actually fell 26% to $5.13 billion, or $1.03 a share, compared to $6.93 billion, or $1.37 a share, in the year ago period. Net earnings fell, in part, because of series of previously disclosed charges.

Total revenue at the bank rose 15% to $23.8 billion. Operating earnings, which excludes charges and onetime events, rose 3%.

Analysts as surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for earnings of $1.01 a share on revenue of $22.45.

Citigroup posted big revenue gains in its hedge fund investing business and its investment bank.

Revenues from the bank's domestic consumer operation showed marked improvement, taking in 14% more in revenues to $7.96 billion. The growth was fueled by its U.S. cards business.

Citigroup also raised its quarterly dividend by 10%

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