Andrew Hall, the trader behind Phibro LLC, the energy trading arm of beleaguered bank Citigroup , is quietly pushing for a quiet divorce from his parent company and has had preliminary talks with one possible suitor, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

Citigroup said in a statement, We are evaluating the best way forward for our stakeholders. A company spokeswoman declined to comment specifically on the talks referred to in the Times' story.

Phibro has been in the spotlight after the White House criticized a reported $100 million pay plan for Hall as out of whack.

Citigroup said in its statement that the Phibro unit operates under a pay-for-performance contract, with compensation determined at the end of the year as a percentage of the profits the business earns for Citi.

We're confident in the value these types of profit-sharing arrangements bring to the company and its shareholders as they directly align compensation with performance and include appropriate clawback and risk-sharing provisions, Citigroup said.

It has previously been reported that Hall, a trader known for huge long-term bets in the oil market, has been pressing Citi to honor the 2009 pay package.

The secretive Phibro unit, based in Connecticut, can sometimes provide the bulk of revenues for its parent company, which has taken a $45 billion federal bailout and is expected this week to give the government a 34 percent equity stake.

Citigroup is trying to balance its desire to retain its top energy trader against the government's drive to crack down on excessive compensation on Wall Street.

(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Leslie Adler)