- - Monday, April 16, 2012

NEW YORK — Citigroup, which has 4,600 branches in 40 countries, boasts that it is the most global American bank. That reach paid off big time in the first three months of the year.

Citigroup pulled in record revenue from processing transactions for its international corporate clients, and its loans to customers in Asia and Latin America grew.

The bank said Monday that it made $2.9 billion in the first three months of the year, or 95 cents per share, which includes a $1.3 billion accounting charge that Citi took because the value of its debt increased.

Without that charge, its earnings per share would be $1.11, which beat estimates of $1.01 among analysts surveyed by FactSet, a provider of financial data.

Citi stock rose almost 2 percent after the results came out.

In the first three months of the year, interest rates fell and the value of most corporate debt rose. Because it would cost it more to buy back its own debt on the open market, Citi had to take a charge under accounting rules.

Citigroup’s revenue in the quarter was $19.4 billion, down 2 percent from the year-ago quarter.

The bank’s international transaction services had quarterly revenue of $2.7 billion, up 7 percent. The international reach came in especially handy at a time when rival banks in Europe have stepped back from such transactions.


Feds find 16 crashes, 5 injuries in BMW probe

DETROIT — U.S. safety regulators have found 16 crashes and five injuries in an eight-month investigation of transmission control problems with BMW 7-Series luxury cars.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began the probe in August and has now upgraded it to an engineering analysis, which is a step closer to a recall. However the cars have not been recalled.

The investigation covers nearly 122,000 BMWs from the 2002 through 2008 model years.

The cars have push-button start and electronic transmission controls. In some cases the owners may think the cars are in park when they actually are in neutral. The safety agency said in documents on its website Monday that the cars can roll away unexpectedly and crash.

BMW is cooperating in the investigation, spokesman Dave Buchko said Monday in an email.

NHTSA said in the documents that BMW and investigators have received 50 complaints about the problem.


Fiat opens production line for family city car

KRAGUJEVAC — Italian carmaker Fiat opened a production line in Kragujevac, Serbia, for the new family version of its popular 500 city car on Monday.

Fiat hopes to sell about 160,000 hatchbacks a year produced in this central Serbian town, which was selected to take advantage of low wages, tax breaks and government subsidies.

The Italian carmaker said the four-door 500L - the L stands for Large - multipurpose vehicle is designed to be “generous” in its size and features, and ecological and simple to drive.

Fiat and Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne, who attended the opening ceremonies for the factory, said the car was set for an autumn launch and was designed to appeal to markets on both sides of the Atlantic. The basic price per car is set to be (euro) 16,000 ($21,000).


Hostess workers counter bankruptcy court proposal

NEW YORK — A union official representing workers at Hostess Brands Inc. said Monday that he isn’t optimistic the two sides will come to an agreement over workers’ contracts before the dispute lands in bankruptcy court.

Hostess has said it will ask the court this week to toss its existing union contracts if its unions don’t accept cost-cutting proposals in its “final” offer. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in January, citing rising competition and pension and medical costs.

Ken Hall, general secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters union, says his union’s members will walk off the job if the court throws out the contracts. CEO Greg Rayburn says a strike will force the company to shut down and liquidate.

The unions sent Mr. Rayburn a counteroffer Sunday night.

“I don’t think we’ll hear back,” Mr. Hall said.

A representative for Mr. Rayburn and Hostess, which makes Twinkies, Wonder Bread, Ding Dongs and other popular foods, did not immediately return a call for comment on Monday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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