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Citi beats expectations for profit in 1st quarter

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NEW YORK — Citigroup on Monday reported first-quarter profit of $3.8 billion, or $1.23 a share, exceeding analysts’ estimates, as the bank continued to sharply reduce costs and unload troubled assets.

The bank also reported higher revenue of $20.5 billion, buoyed by continued gains in its investment banking business and strong loan demand.

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In the lead-up to the release of bank’s earnings, analysts had estimated the bank would post earnings of $1.18 a share on revenue of $20.17 billion, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters. Adjusted for certain charges, the company reported a profit of $4 billion on revenue of $20.8 billion in the first quarter.

‘‘Achieving consistent, high-quality earnings is one of my top priorities and these results are encouraging,’’ Michael L. Corbat, the bank’s chief executive, said in a statement. ‘‘During the quarter, we benefited from seasonally strong results in our markets businesses, sustained momentum in investment banking, continued year-over-year growth in loans and deposits in Citicorp, and a more favorable credit environment.’’

The results come after a particularly disappointing fourth quarter for Citigroup, when profits were hampered by mortgage woes stemming from the financial crisis. Last quarter, for example, Citigroup had $1.3 billion in legal costs and related expenses.

Citigroup has been aggressively whittling down a morass of soured loans and cutting less-profitable business lines in an effort to reduce costs. In December, it said it would eliminate 11,000 jobs worldwide.

Citigroup said revenue growth slackened in the first quarter. Citigroup faces increasing pressure to cut costs and bolster shareholder returns.

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