Citigroup is reportedly talking to the US government about it taking a bigger stake.American taxpayers could end up owning between 25 percent and 40 percent of the stricken bank’s ordinary shares. The government previously bailed out Citigroup with the equivalent of 35 billion euros in return for preferred shares. They could now be converted into common stock, giving Washington much more influence, but stopping short of full nationalisation. Meanwhile, the British government is to inject billions of pounds into Northern Rock – the bank it was forced to nationalise to keep it from going bust. The hope is that money wil unlock lending and help the UK economy emerge from recession. Michael Coogan, Council of Mortgage Lenders, the trade association for the UK mortgage lending industry said: “What we’re looking for is to create competition for loans for first time buyers, that’s an area where Northern Rock have indicated they will be active and it’s an area where other lenders are not active.” And the Paris government has said it will give up to five billion euros in aid to two troubled French banks that are merging. Caisse d’Epargne and Banque Populaire were hard hit by sub prime losses at their shared investment banking arm Natixis. The combined bank will also reportedly get a new boss, Francois Pérol, who is the top economics adviser to President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy’s political opponents have complained about a conflict of interest.
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