Citicorp's profits have become increasingly dependent on earnings from its activities in developing countries.

While its business in the United States, Japan, Britain, Canada, and Australia are struggling under the weight of problem loans, Citicorp's profits from less-industrialized countries are picking up the slack, according to a recent report by Salomon Brothers.

"The relative importance of earnings from [developing] countries will be quite high and will help cushion losses," in other areas, said Diane B. Glossman, a banking analyst with Salomon.

Salomon Optimistic

Increased profit from businesses in developing countries has been one factor in Salomon's continuing buy recommendation on Citicorp's stock.

According to recent estimates that Citicorp made to analysts, developing countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe will provide 56% of $1.4 billion in 1992 gross operating earnings on wholesale banking activities before deductions and expenses for losses.

Asia, the Pacific region, and Latin America will provide 41% of some $1 billion in earnings on worldwide consumer operations, excluding private banking, this year.

Analysts noted that markets in developing countries are growing faster and profit margins are higher than in industrialized countries in recent years.

In the industrialized world, economic growth is slackening and banks are confronted with increases in problem corporate and commercial real estate loans.

Problems in Realty Loans

For example, about 40% of Citicorp's commercial real estate portfolio in the United States, Canada, Britain, and Australia is on nonperforming status, according to Salomon.

"We continue to believe that the fastest growth rates will be available from Citicorp's foreign businesses, particularly outside," of developed countries, Ms. Glossman noted.

The Salomon analysts predicted that although industrialized countries would make a greater contribution to net earnings in the future "as a result of a reduction in the overhang of credit problems," the bank's revenues would grow at a faster rate in developing nations.

A Citicorp spokesman declined to confirm the forecasts but acknowledged that earnings in developing countries have contributed significantly to the bottom line this year.

These countries have provided half or more of Citicorp's quarterly earnings from consumer and wholesale banking operations.

For example, in the third quarter, business in developing countries provided about 53% of Citicorp'2 $227 million in total income from the global consumer business. In the same period, developing countries contributed 44% of Citicorp's $ 365 million in earnings in global finance.

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