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Credit Suisse saw $69 billion of outflows before UBS takeover

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By Marion Halftermeyer


Credit Suisse Group AG reported 61.2 billion francs ($69 billion) of outflows in the first quarter and took a large writedown at its wealth management unit, underscoring the challenge for UBS Group AG in retaining key clients and assets after the emergency takeover of its biggest rival.

 

The Swiss bank lost more than 200 billion francs of customer deposits over a six-month period, culminating in several frantic days in March before the government-orchestrated sale. First-quarter results on Monday showed that its key units continued to lose money and shed clients, and the firm borrowed far more from a central bank liquidity backstop than previously known.

The figures give a fuller picture of the drama that ended Credit Suisse’s 167-year run as one of the most storied European banks and a sense of the work ahead for UBS. Ironically, in what may be its final quarter as a standalone company, Credit Suisse had a record 12.4 billion-franc profit, but only because of a gain tied to the controversial regulatory decision to wipe out many of its bondholders in the deal. Without that, it would have posted another loss.

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Wealthy clients and retail depositors pulled billions from Credit Suisse last month after its anchor Saudi shareholder said that it would not invest more in the company. That triggered the second crisis of confidence within months and ultimately led the Swiss government to broker the bank’s rescue because of fears it was heading toward bankruptcy.


“The magnitude of losses and outflows is alarming,” Keefe, Bruyette & Woods’ analysts including Thomas Hallett wrote in a note to investors. “The revenue trajectory is so damaged that the deal could well remain a drag on UBS operating results unless a deeper restructuring plan is announced.”


The outflows and expected losses this year at key businesses such as wealth and investment banking are some of the clearest indications yet of the risks for UBS in an integration that the bank has said may take up to four years. Chairman Colm Kelleher has already warned that the takeover is more challenging than many of the banking rescues that were executed during the 2008 financial crisis. 

Still, UBS is paying about 3 billion francs for a firm that finished March with a book value of 54 billion francs, giving it plenty of protection against further losses. And some observers saw the results as better than expected. Michael Klien, an analyst at Zurcher Kantonalbank, said the outflows were “lower than feared” as he reiterated his outperform rating on UBS shares. UBS rose 1.6% at 1:10 p.m. in Zurich.

While Credit Suisse said that outflows have moderated but not yet reversed, it also lost about 6.9 billion at the Swiss unit, mostly at the private clients business, and a further 11.6 billion francs in asset management. The bank also took a 1.3 billion franc impairment charge mostly related to the wealth business. Shrinking assets under management and deposits reduce net interest income, as well as recurring commissions and fees.  

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The quarterly profit was boosted by the write down to zero of 15 billion francs of additional tier 1 capital notes as part of UBS’s acquisition of Credit Suisse. That move proved hugely contentious, with many investors exploring legal options even after the Swiss government maintained the move was within its rights under the securities’ contract. Without the adjustment, Credit Suisse posted a loss of 1.3 billion francs.


At the end of the first quarter, Credit Suisse’s borrowings from the Swiss National Bank totaled 108 billion francs, after it had repaid 60 billion francs of borrowings, to support its liquidity levels. It repaid another 10 billion francs in April, after the quarter closed.

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says:


A decline in investment-banking fees that’s worse than peers is disappointing — especially the 63% slide in advisory revenue — as it’s an area UBS seeks to leverage from the transaction.

— Alison Williams, BI banking analyst


The central bank support wasn’t enough to stave off a rescue deal as Credit Suisse saw its customer deposits plunge by more than half in six months, with another 67 billion drop in the first quarter. The bank said deposits accounted for the majority of its asset outflows in its wealth management and Swiss bank units in the quarter.

Credit Suisse had started its latest restructuring in October, including as many as 9,000 job cuts, as it sought to return to profitability. The continuation of asset exits, and banker departures, now raises questions about the state of the wealth business that UBS will inherit. Credit Suisse on Monday warned that the recent developments have already increased employee attrition and that it lost 280 relationship managers at the business over the past 12 months. 

To help stem an exodus of talent, UBS wealth head Iqbal Khan has appeared in townhalls alongside his Credit Suisse counterpart to tell key staff that the new owner would offer incentives and retention packages. Khan formerly ran the international wealth business at Credit Suisse and his intervention signals UBS’s rising concern that rivals are using the drama to poach personnel and clients.

Credit Suisse had already lost about 110 billion francs of client assets in the fourth quarter, after a social media firestorm questioning the bank’s financial stability set off a rush for the exits. Analysts at Citigroup Inc estimated before Monday’s announcement that the bank would probably lose another 110 billion francs following its merger with UBS, or about a fifth of its client assets.



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