UBS exploring Credit Suisse deal in crisis combination — sources

UBS exploring Credit Suisse deal in crisis combination — sources
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(March 18): UBS Group AG is exploring an acquisition of all or parts of Credit Suisse Group AG at the urging of Swiss regulators, after its smaller rival was pummelled by a crisis of confidence, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Swiss officials are pushing UBS to look at various ways it could be involved with a solution for Credit Suisse, the people said, asking not to be identified describing private discussions. The deliberations are ongoing, and it’s unclear whether any deal will result, the people said.

The boards at Switzerland’s top two banks expect to meet separately this weekend to weigh the idea of a combination, with talks orchestrated by the Swiss National Bank and regulator Finma, according to the Financial Times, which reported the deliberations earlier on Friday (March 17). 

Spokespeople for UBS and Credit Suisse declined to comment. 

The goal is for an announcement of a deal between the two banks by Sunday evening at the latest, according to a person familiar with the matter, who also asked not to be identified discussing the talks. The situation, however, remains fluid and could change.

A government-brokered deal would address a rout in Credit Suisse that sent shock waves across the global financial system this week, when panicked investors dumped its shares and bonds, following the collapse of several smaller US lenders. A liquidity backstop by the Swiss central bank briefly arrested the decline, but the market drama carries the risk that clients or counterparties would continue fleeing, with potential ramifications for the broader industry.

The government, central bank and Finma have been in close contact to discuss further ways to stabilise Credit Suisse, Bloomberg reported earlier this week. Ideas floated included a separation of the bank’s Swiss unit and an orchestrated tie-up with UBS, people familiar with the matter said previously. Executives at UBS and Credit Suisse had been opposed to such an arranged combination, people familiar with the matter said earlier this week.

UBS would prefer to focus on its own wealth-centric stand-alone strategy, and is reluctant to take on risks related to Credit Suisse, the people said, asking not to be identified, as the deliberations were private. Credit Suisse is seeking time to see through its turnaround, after winning the US$54 billion (RM242.22 billion) credit line from the central bank, they said.

Credit Suisse’s market value has plunged to about 7.4 billion Swiss francs (US$8 billion or RM35.97 billion), from a 2007 peak of more than 100 billion francs. UBS’s market value is 60 billion francs. 

Credit Suisse, which traces its roots back to 1856, has been hammered over recent years by a series of blow-ups, scandals, leadership changes and legal issues. The company’s 7.3 billion franc loss last year wiped out the previous decade’s worth of profits. 

Clients pulled more than US$100 billion of assets in the last three months of last year, as concerns mounted about its financial health, and the outflows have continued, even after it tapped shareholders in a four billion franc capital raise. 

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