Why Break Up Citigroup When You Can Just Change the Name?

Investors hoping Citigroup (C) CEO Chuck Prince would break up the company into smaller parts in order to significantly boost shareholder value will have to wait a little while, at least. After calling such break up talk ridiculous and stupid, Prince reportedly has decided to revamp the Citigroup’s brand by, hold your breath, shortening the company’s name to Citi and having each division’s arc on the logo be a different color. Such a move is an attempt to “unify the identity of Citigroup’s businesses” according to the Associated Press.Isn’t unifying the company’s identity the exact opposite of breaking the company up? Will the move do anything for the company’s lagging stock price (shares have risen a total of about 5% over the last 5 years)? Highly unlikely.

Without a break up, Citi sports a 6 to 7 percent earnings growth rate and a 12 P/E multiple. Such a ratio seems about right for that type of growth. By breaking up into smaller pieces, it would be much more obvious to investors that some of Citi’s businesses are growing much faster than the entire firm as a whole. In that case, higher multiples would clearly be afforded to some divisions.

The result would be increased shareholder value, not to mention better growth prospects given that it is much easier to grow a bunch of separately run, individualized, smaller firms than it is an enormous one. Just giving each business their own colored arc really doesn’t accomplish that feat quite as well.

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