Citigroup Shares Should be Avoided: Analyst

Article updated to include accurate trading price.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Investors should avoid Citigroup's ( C) shares following a 1-for-10 reverse stock split because access to the stock to a larger group of shareholders could have a short-term, negative impact, says David Hilder, analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group.

Hilder is giving Citigroup a neutral rating with a price target of $45.00.

"Citigroup is clearly taking cosmetic steps to look more like a "normal" bank stock and less like a slim survivor of the financial crisis," said Hilder in a note. "By getting the stock price to the $45 range, C hopes to open the door for funds that may not be able to buy stocks priced under $5 a share. Similarly, a new quarterly dividend of $0.01 per share will provide a dividend yield of less than 10 bps but will allow funds that cannot buy non-dividend-paying stocks to buy C."

Hilder adds that the shares will be less attractive to high-frequency traders because of the higher pricing and smaller rebates. He says shares will be easier to short.

"We would avoid C shares as we see greater upside over the next 12 months in other bank stocks, including Bank of America ( BAC), Wells Fargo ( WFC), Bank of New York Mellon ( BK), State Street ( STT) and Goldman Sachs ( GS)," said Hilder in a note.

In pre-market trading the shares were at $44.89.

Not all analysts feel the same way. Last week Morgan Stanley ( MS) analyst Betsy Graseck upgraded Citigroup to "overweight" from "equal-weight" and gave the bank a $6 price target.

--Written by Maria Woehr in New York.

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