IMPROVING OUTLOOK: UBS expects this year to be a better one

ZURICH – UBS does not expect this year to be like the last, when the Swiss bank wrote down US$18 billion (S$25.5 billion) in bad credits and posted the first loss since its creation, its chief executive officer (CEO) was quoted as saying yesterday.

‘I view the environment as difficult due to great uncertainties related to the United States economy. Nervousness will remain high in the markets. But you cannot conclude from that that 2008 will be a year like 2007 for UBS,’ CEO Marcel Rohner told Swiss daily newspaper NZZ am Sonntag.

UBS, the world’s largest manager of affluent people’s money, is Europe’s biggest casualty of the credit crunch by far. Investors fear the possibility of billions of dollars in new sub-prime write-downs.

Mr Rohner said UBS’ investment banking business would this year concentrate on its strengths in customer business, such as equities and mergers and acquisitions advisory business.

‘Our goal is to give the businesses that do excellent work the space to develop further, while isolating the problem portfolios in the US mortgage market, managing them separately and quickly reducing the risks.’

UBS has published details of its exposure to problem areas in US debt, totalling US$88 billion at the end of last year, including US$27.5 billion in sub-prime debt. But Mr Rohner said the figure could not be used to predict losses, as it comprised highly diverse positions and risks.

Last December, the Government of Singapore Investment Corp bought a 9 per cent stake in UBS for 11 billion Swiss francs (S$14.2 billion).

On Jan 30, UBS announced a 12.5 billion Swiss franc loss for the final three months of last year and a full-year loss of 4.4 billion Swiss francs, a record for the bank. This was due to a higher-than-expected US$14 billion write-down on assets connected to sub-prime mortgages in the US.

UBS was formed in 1998 after the Union Bank of Switzerland took over local rival Swiss Banking Corp.

 

Source: REUTERS (The Straits Times 18 Feb 08)

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