UBS profitability hurt by new investigations

Tim Wallace
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SWISS bank UBS yesterday revealed it has pushed back its profitability targets because of extra provisions against litigation expenses, which dented its third quarter profits.

Regulators in its home country as well as the US and UK are looking at possible foreign exchange manipulation, while the bank is still facing some interest rate benchmark probes as well a European and US investigations into credit default swap sales.

UBS set aside another SFr586m (£406m) to cover likely costs, and Swiss regulator Finma ordered it to hike its capital buffers as a precaution. The bank expects that to hit its capital position to the tune of 130 basis points.

UBS’s profits came in at SFr578m, swinging back from a loss of SFr2.1bn in the third quarter of 2012.

Its operating income held steady on the year at SFr6.3bn, while operating expenses fell 33 per cent to SFr5.9bn.

The bank controlled costs, cutting 2,000 staff to bring its headcount down to 60,635.

Total personnel expenses fell eight per cent on the year to SFr3.5bn, with variable compensation falling 17 per cent to SFr647m.

By business unit, wealth management saw profits edge up 1.6 per cent to SFr617m as new money inflows came to SFr5bn.

Retail and corporate profits rose 6.9 per cent to SFr417m, while investment banking profits increased almost five-fold to SFr335m.

Return on equity came in at 4.9 per cent, well below the 15 per cent chief executive Sergio Ermotti had hoped to achieve by 2015, forcing it to push that target back a year.

On a fully applied basis UBS’ Basel III common equity tier one capital ratio rose from 9.8 per cent to 11.8 per cent on the year.