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Not all of the government’s bailout investments worked out

Citigroup warrants, which were obtained by the U.S. Treasury as part its bailout deal with the bank during the financial crisis, look like they will expire worthless by as soon as 2018, despite the government making a nice profit on the bank’s bailout overall.

The topline stats from Citigroup’s (C) federally-funded bailout look pretty good:

$45 billion disbursed to Citigroup since 2008

$45 billion paid back to the U.S. Treasury

$13.4 billion taxpayer profits from dividends, interest, warrants and other proceeds

However, the trickle-down benefits may not work out so profitably. About $312 million of the taxpayer profits came from stock warrants sold by the Treasury, which was intended to spread the bailout gains with taxpayers by giving them access to the options.

But the current holders may not profit as handsomely after Citigroup’s warrants fell to a record low this week from the price they were originally sold at in January 2011. Citigroup’s B warrants, part of the second lot of options sold off by the government, trade for 3.6 cents a piece as of Thursday, an 86% decline from the 26 cent auction price.

The B warrants allow holders to buy Citigroup stock at $178.50 by Oct. 28, 2018. Citigroup shares haven’t traded that high since 2008. As of close of market on Wednesday, its shares traded at $47.93. If Citigroup’s shares remain at the current low levels, investors may be holding on to worthless warrants.

The warrant sales were part of the U.S. government’s Capital Purchase, Targeted Investment and Asset Guarantee programs, where the Treasury disbursed bailout funds to Citigroup — $45 billion in total — in exchange for preferred shares with a healthy dividend rate as well as a series of stock warrants, which provide the holder with the right to purchase stock at a set price in the future.

The Treasury auctioned off two groups of warrants on Jan. 25, 2011, both of which trade below the original purchase price. The A group was auctioned for $1.01 a piece and now trades at 61 cents, a 40% decline. The options allow holders to buy Citigroup stock for $106.10 by January 2019.