Fairholme’s Bruce Berkowitz was interviewed by Morningstar’s Michael Breen earlier this month. Breen asked Berkowitz about the investment thesis for Citigroup. Here is his answer:
I think it's a bit of both. In the U.S., this was not a bankruptcy, but it's gone through a scrubbing process, very similar to a bankruptcy, by the U.S. Treasury. Citigroup has spent a good amount of time with the U.S. government and many of its financial regulators, going through every liability and asset in the books.
After such a period of time, you normally are able to count the cockroaches. That is, the liabilities have been under a microscope for quite a period of time. There's been huge capital injections by the government. There's been a massive amount of dilution to old shareholders. And you're starting to see some stability, the beginnings.
It's very much what I call now the pig in the python. You have to look at their liabilities. So you have to look at their bad debt, and you have to continue to watch how the company is digesting its bad debt.
At the same time, you have to see the new debt that's coming in, the new loans that they're giving out. It's fascinating. It amazes me, with financial institutions, the extent, the amount of new loans that are being created in relation to the total loan portfolio.
So it's just now, in my opinion, a question of time, an ingestion period, were how many more quarters is it going to take before the new loans start to outweigh the old, existing loans?
Read the full text of the transcript here.