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Citigroup to seek permission to buy back shares: WSJ

People exit a Citibank branch in New York, October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Keith Bedford
People exit a Citibank branch in New York, October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Citigroup Inc is planning to ask regulators for permission to buy back a "minimal" number of shares, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The bank is not planning to ask to increase its quarterly dividend, which is currently a penny a share, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the company's plans.

Citigroup Chairman Michael O'Neill and newly installed CEO Michael Corbat have told company executives that the capital plan the company submits to the Federal Reserve must be so conservative that it will not be rejected, the Journal said.

Big banks are due to submit their capital plans to the Fed on Monday.

Another bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co , has reason to be "cautiously optimistic" about its chances of winning approval to raise its dividend and buy back more stock, an official who asked not to be named told Reuters.

In November, JPMorgan won approval from the Fed to resume previously approved buybacks it had suspended in May after a multi-billion dollar loss surfaced on derivatives transactions in its London office. JPMorgan's operations have generated more than enough capital to cover those losses.

The Journal reported that Morgan Stanley will focus its plan for the Fed on using its capital to complete its purchase of Citigroup's minority stake of a joint venture the two companies have in a wealth-management business. A spokesman for the investment bank declined to comment.

Citigroup's last annual plan was rejected by the Fed in March after former CEO Vikram Pandit led analysts and investors to believe the company would be allowed to spend a few billion dollars on share buybacks and additional dividends. The rejection became a major embarrassment for the bank and contributed to the board's decision to replace Pandit.

(Reporting by David Henry in New York; Editing by Gary Hill and Paul Tait)

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