UBS targets $10 bln in costs, to cut 3,000 jobs after Credit Suisse takeover


  • UBS to absorb Credit Suisse Swiss operations
  • Job cuts unveiled in Switzerland
  • CEO Ermotti announces $10 billion-plus of savings
  • Results lay bare scale of task ahead
  • UBS posts $29 bln profit due to one-off deal effect

ZURICH, Aug 31 (Reuters) – UBS (UBSG.S) embarked on a more than $10 billion cost cutting plan on Thursday, saying it will axe 3,000 jobs in Switzerland alone after swallowing up its stricken rival Credit Suisse.

The plan to cut around one in 12 Swiss jobs at the newly forged bank giant gives a glimpse of the scale of the shake-up as UBS grapples with consolidating a competitor that unravelled after panicked customers withdrew billions from their accounts.

Most savings are set to come from cutting staff and analysts have estimated between 30,000 and 35,000 jobs could go globally.

The initial job cuts follow a decision by the world’s biggest wealth manager to absorb Credit Suisse’s local arm, which last year was its only profitable division, rather than spin it off, which UBS also considered.

“Our analysis clearly shows that a full integration is the best outcome for UBS … and the Swiss economy,” UBS Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti said.

In a memo to staff Ermotti said that 3,000 Swiss jobs would go, while more people would leave of their own accord, for example, through retirement. The toll could be far higher as Credit Suisse has already said that 8,000 people had stopped working at the bank in recent months, before Thursday’s cuts.

The UBS prediction of more than $10 billion in cost-savings by the end of 2026 compares with an earlier estimate of $8 billion by 2027.

UBS shares were up 6% in late afternoon trading, hitting highs not seen since 2008, after the cuts were announced alongside the first financial results the bank has published since the takeover, hastily arranged over a weekend in March.

With a market value of 77 billion Swiss francs, UBS also struck an optimistic note about its short-term outlook. It is seeing a pick up in sentiment among rich clients and expects stronger financial markets to also boost the fees it earns.

The decision to absorb Credit Suisse’s local operation is, however, contested in Switzerland. Proxy adviser Ethos, representing Swiss pension funds and foundations that owned stakes in both banks, said a spin off would have avoided “a major systemic risk for Switzerland, an important negative impact on employment and issues for the fair competition.”

Ethos has backed a class-action lawsuit seeking a better price from UBS for the takeover.

With Credit Suisse in Switzerland intact and independent, as some politicians had hoped, fewer jobs would have been hit.

The biggest bank merger since the global financial crisis, orchestrated by the Swiss government to avert Credit Suisse’s collapse, created a group whose assets dwarf the economic output of the country, whose regulators had already struggled to control big lenders.

Although Switzerland bankrolled the rescue through guarantees and central bank funding, UBS has since dropped state support, leaving its politicians with little leverage to avert the cull ahead of national elections.

The cuts will be painful for Switzerland’s financial centre of Zurich, where the banks dominate the landscape. The Swiss Bank Employees Association said that the two banks’ 37,000 local staff should be treated fairly and equally.

‘LIKELY BUMPY’

The Swiss job cuts give a taste of more to come at the global bank, whose reach spans Wall Street to London.

Analysts welcomed the announcement, although several sounded a note of caution. Jefferies described the integration of the two as “long, challenging and likely bumpy. “The group remains a construction site,” said Deutsche Bank analysts.

Reuters Graphics

The results also showed the difficulties UBS has had in persuading Credit Suisse’s wealthy customers to stay.

Keeping them is seen as key if UBS is to successfully pull off the Herculean deal.

Credit Suisse reported net asset outflows of 39 billion Swiss francs ($44.4 billion) in the second quarter, underscoring that the rescue has failed to stem the loss of confidence.

But UBS said the outflows had slowed down and reversed in June. UBS’s global wealth management reported net new money of $16 billion.

The first-ever merger of two global systemically important banks creates both opportunities and risks for UBS.

Analysts note that UBS acquired Credit Suisse for a song – just 3 billion Swiss francs – but to make it work UBS must slash costs, shrink Credit Suisse’s investment bank, and keep its wealthy clients on board.

UBS booked net profit of $29 billion for the second quarter, although group-wide results include just one month of Credit Suisse earnings as the deal only closed in June.

Reuters Graphics

The bumper profit results from a huge one-off gain that reflects how the acquisition costs were far below Credit Suisse’s value. It was somewhat less than a consensus estimate of $33.45 billion from a poll conducted by the bank.

($1 = 0.8784 Swiss francs)

Additional reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in Zurich; Writing by John O’Donnell and Noele Illien; Editing by Edwina Gibbs, Tomasz Janowski and Alexander Smith

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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2023-08-31 16:39:48

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