Citigroup Inc. chief executives John S. Reed and Sanford E. Weill on Monday promised shareholders the firm would double earnings every five years.

In a letter accompanying the firm's annual report and proxy statement, Mr. Reed and Mr. Weill also set a goal that the company would achieve a 20% return on equity by 2003.

Citigroup's return on equity in the fourth quarter of 1998 was 14.02%.

"That leaves a lot of room for improvement," said Stephen Biggar, an analyst with Standard & Poor's equity group.

The letter along with the annual report are being mailed to shareholders this week. The firm's annual report was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday.

The earnings goal is "along the lines of what they've been saying but they haven't stated the five-year time frame," Mr. Biggar said. "They should do well their first year out of the box ... given the cost savings and revenue benefits of cross-selling."

Mr. Biggar said the goals laid out in the letter were "about average" for the industry. Most big banks are aiming for a return on equity of near 20%.

Mr. Reed and Mr. Weill have been under pressure since they first announced the $70 billion merger of Travelers Group Inc. and Citicorp last April.

The merger was dealt a series of blows after the announcement, including $396 million in trading losses at Travelers' Salomon Smith Barney Inc. The third-quarter loss stemmed from a crash in global debt markets - a fact the co-CEOs addressed in their letter.

Except for the merger, "We must acknowledge that 1998 was not a good year for our company," Mr. Reed and Weill wrote. "We have taken steps that should mitigate the impact of market volatility."

That included reducing exposure to global debt markets and refining the risk models used by traders to be more "responsive," Mr. Biggar said.

Citigroup was dealt another blow in October as the merger closed when its president, James Dimon, resigned after he came under internal criticism for failing to better integrate the corporate bank.

Though the CEOs did not mention integration problems, analysts said they would be looking for progress on that front.

"This is a company that in the past has had trouble operating on all cylinders," Mr. Biggar said. "They need to get everything working cohesively."

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