UBS posts record quarterly profit as it integrates Credit Suisse

Swiss bank registers $29bn accounting gain from integrating local rival

UBS’s share price has gained 30 per cent this year, making it the best-valued major European lender. Reuters
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UBS posted the biggest-ever quarterly profit for a bank in the second quarter as a result of its emergency takeover of Credit Suisse, and confirmed that it would fully integrate the local business of its former rival by next year.

The $29 billion gain is a result of the accounting difference between the $3 billion price UBS paid for Credit Suisse and the value of the acquired lender’s balance sheet. UBS now commands roughly $5 trillion in client assets, giving it a shot at global primacy in the business of managing rich people’s money.

In reporting underlying net profit before tax of $1.1 billion in the first combined UBS-Credit Suisse quarterly earnings on Thursday, the Zurich-based bank said:

  • It will target cost savings of more than $10 billion by the end of 2026
  • UBS saw net new money inflows of $16 billion in the quarter
  • Credit Suisse outflows slowed to 39 billion Swiss francs ($44.4 billion)
  • Bank sees pickup in client activity, expects new asset inflows to continue

Almost three months since closing the deal to acquire Credit Suisse, UBS chief executive Sergio Ermotti is focused on implementing one of the biggest mergers ever in global finance. The task is set to involve thousands of job cuts and comes fraught with legal risks, the potential for ballooning costs and political controversy as a Swiss election nears.

“This combination will reinforce our status as a premier global franchise, and one that our home market Switzerland can be proud of,” Mr Ermotti said in the earnings release on Thursday. “We are humbled by this task, and the responsibility entrusted to us.”

UBS’s share price has gained 30 per cent this year, making it the best-valued major European lender. The accounting gain for the quarter eclipses JP Morgan’s $14.3 billion profit in the first quarter of 2021, the modern record for US and European lenders.

The bank has now ended months of speculation over the future of Credit Suisse’s domestic unit, previously the most consistently profitable of its units.

The two banks will operate separately until the planned legal merger in 2024, UBS said. The Credit Suisse brand will remain in place until clients are moved over to UBS systems, expected in 2025. Bloomberg reported the decision on full integration of Credit Suisse’s Swiss unit earlier this month.

A UBS veteran who spent his first stint as CEO turning the lender into a model wealth manager after its near-failure in the financial crisis, Ermotti is keenly aware of the political sensitivities surrounding the Credit Suisse deal, which he was brought back to oversee.

In a surprise move this month, UBS decided to voluntarily give up a safety net negotiated as part of the purchase, including a 9 billion-franc ($9.4 billion) government backstop. That step gives the bank more flexibility, including over the domestic franchises.

While signalling the underlying strength of its business, UBS is now girding investors for the process of integrating its rival, to be “substantially complete” by the end of 2026. The bank is aiming for a cost-to-income ratio of less than 70 per cent by the end of 2026. The bank said it sees underlying pre-tax profit for the group in the third quarter at around break even.

UBS had previously guided that markdowns on Credit Suisse assets could come in at about $13 billion and legal liabilities of as much as $4 billion over the first year of the integration.

UBS said that the wind-down unit, which houses businesses brought over from Credit Suisse which are not compatible with its strategy, had approximately $55 billion of risk-weighted assets at the end of the quarter. Some $8 billion in positions had been exited during the quarter.

UBS said its global wealth-management business continued to see strong inflows, with the $16 billion figure billed as the highest second-quarter figure in over a decade. Flows of client funds at Credit Suisse’s wealth unit turned positive in June. The release records Credit Suisse’s final quarter as an independent company.

Updated: August 31, 2023, 6:12 AM