Safra wins battle for Sarasin

City A.M. Reporter
DUTCH cooperative Rabobank has agreed to sell its majority stake in private Swiss bank Sarasin to the Brazilian-Swiss private bank Safra for 1.04bn Swiss francs (£730bn), scuppering chances of a domestic tie-up sought by rival Julius Baer.

The deal ended months of uncertainty as Rabo weighed whether and how to sell its stake in Sarasin.

“We now have clarity about our future,” Sarasin chief executive Joachim Straehle said in a statement. “In Safra, we will have a new and well capitalised majority shareholder that will reinforce our strong position as an independent Swiss private bank under the Sarasin brand and that will support our business model.”

The deal ended a bidding war for Sarasin involving its larger Swiss rival Julius Baer, Safra and, according to media reports, at least one other bank.

Sarasin had made it clear that it preferred other bidders over deal-hungry Julius Baer.

Uncertainty is toxic for private banks, whose clients put a premium on stability, consistency and discretion. As a result, protracted bidding wars are uncommon and hostile takeovers are practically unheard of.

Unlisted Rabobank was never a desperate seller and on Friday it left its reasons for selling unclear, although the sale is expected to buttress its AAA credit rating.

Experts had suggested the Dutch bank might be eager to avoid association with Swiss private banking, which is under fire from the US and other countries over undeclared assets held by their citizens in secret accounts.

For its part, Sarasin has advocated a clean-asset strategy.