Citi axes 50 investment bankers in Europe, Mideast, Africa

Citigroup Inc has begun axing 50 investment bankers across its Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) division as a program of cutting 11,000 jobs hits the heart of the investment bank.

Citi announced the global cuts, equal to about 4 percent of the bank's workforce, in December as part of an effort to eliminate $1.1 billion in annual costs by 2014.

Back office areas like support and technology were singled out as those to be hardest hit, along with consumer banking in markets like Pakistan, Paraguay, Brazil and Hong Kong where Citi is scaling back its presence.

Three sources told Reuters that Citi has this week began laying off investment bankers in the division, with 50 positions to be eliminated imminently.

Of these, between 15-18 are at the managing director level, a source with knowledge of the plan told Reuters on Wednesday.

"The cuts began Monday and are currently going on across the region," said a separate source familiar with the matter.

"Most of the cuts are in Europe and there is an intense pressure to cut costs there. Senior bankers being asked to leave shows that."

Citi declined to comment on the size, timing or regions of the cuts, which followed swiftly after a 4,500-strong job cutting program in 2012.

"Last year's cuts were not harsh on the investment bank but this one is going straight to the division," said the source.

"This puts a lot of pressure on the existing bankers to boost revenues and profitability. Some bankers are voluntarily taking the exit package."

The cost cuts come as Citi pares back its mammoth global business to a more profitable core.

"We have identified areas and products where our scale does not provide for meaningful returns," Chief Executive Michael Corbat said in December, as he outlined the plan.

Corbat, a 30 year Citi veteran, had only been in the top job two months when the plan was announced.

His chairman, Michael O'Neill, famed for his cost cutting, is credited with being a key driving force behind the reorganization, which earned the bank $1.03 billion worth or charges in the final quarter of 2012.

After the charge, Citi reported pretax earnings of $1.13 billion, marginally ahead of its $1.09 billion result in the comparable quarter in 2011, which also included "repositioning" charges.

(Writing by Laura Noonan; Additional Reporting by Anjuili Davies; Editing by Kenneth Barry)