UBS reports big improvement in profit

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Zurich - Swiss bank UBS, in the midst of a refocusing of its activities, reported a huge switch back into profit last year and accelerating performance in the last quarter, in a statement on Tuesday.

The bank took huge losses from the financial crisis and, in common with Swiss banks in general, is having to adjust to a new Swiss banking climate on many fronts and notably owing to an opening up of Swiss banking secrecy.

Last year it made a net profit of 3.2 billion Swiss francs (2.5 billion euros, ($3.38 billion) from a loss of 2.4 billion francs in 2012.

This was partly because the results in 2012 were set back by a fine by regulatory authorities over an international scandal concerning the rigging of the Libor interbank interest rate.

But the bank also began to benefit from a massive reorganisation of its businesses, announced in October 2012.

“A year ago, we said we would further adapt our business to better serve clients, reduce risk, deliver more sustainable performance and enhance shareholder returns,” Sergio Ermotti, chief executive of UBS, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“I am pleased to report that in 2013 we accomplished all those goals. We finished the year ahead of the majority of our performance targets and will continue to execute our strategy in a disciplined manner in order to ensure the firm's long-term success.”

The UBS wealth management arm posted a 17-percent increase in pre-tax profit against the outcome in 2012, reaching 2.4 billion Swiss francs.

Its Americas wealth management activities, which are accounted for separately, notched up pre-tax profit of $991 million.

Net new money in the group's wealth management businesses increased to 54 billion Swiss francs.

And the UBS investment bank division, at the core of the restructuring programme, posted pre-tax profit of 2.5 billion francs.

UBS, which is the top player in the Swiss banking sector, said its performance accelerated in the fourth quarter, with net profit reaching 917 million francs, a full 59 percent higher than the 577 million recorded in the previous three months.

While the first quarter tends to see activity speed up further in the banking sector, UBS was downbeat about the current market outlook.

“At the start of the first quarter of 2014, many of the underlying challenges and geopolitical issues that we have previously highlighted remain,” it said.

“The continued absence of sustained and credible improvements to unresolved issues in Europe, continuing US fiscal and monetary policy issues, emerging markets fragility and the mixed outlook for global growth would make improvements in prevailing market conditions unlikely.”

But despite the overall environment, UBS underlined that it expected its wealth management business to continue attracting new money. - Sapa-AFP


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