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Bank seeks to attract wealthy clients in Italy

Banca del Gottardo wants to focus on affluent clients

(Keystone)

Swiss Life's Banca del Gottardo unit has appointed a new chief executive and is to focus on attracting wealthy Swiss and Italian clients.

Renewed speculation in financial circles of a possible sale of the bank to an Italian rival proved inaccurate.

Banca del Gottardo announced on Thursday it had appointed Rolf Aeberli as its new chief executive.

He is currently finance head at Switzerland's Julius Bär private bank and will replace Banca del Gottardo's CEO, Marco Netzer, from February 2006.

The bank said its business strategy would focus in future more strongly on private banking.

The aim is to specialise in private banking for wealthy individuals in the on-shore and off-shore business in Switzerland and neighbouring Italy as its main foreign market, a statement said.

Swiss Life, Switzerland's largest life insurance company, said Banca del Gottardo was an important part of its business group.

The bank repeated its goal of generating a return on equity above 15 per cent by 2008.

It added the aim was to acquire SFr1 billion ($0.78) in net new money each year.

Rumours

Thursday's announcement puts an end to speculation among financial analysts that the insurer would sell the bank to a rival, Italy's Generali insurance company.

The rumours had led to an increase in share prices at the Swiss bourse.

Swiss Life bought Banca del Gottardo from Japan's leading Sumitomo Mitsui bank for SFr2.4 billion in 1999. But the acquisition resulted in drastic losses and led to mass lay-offs.

Over the past few years the Swiss insurer has tried unsuccessfully to sell Banca del Gottardo. In 2004 it announced the bank was no longer for sale.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Founded in 1957, Banca del Gottardo employs about 1,100 people.
Swiss Life bought the Banca del Gottardo from Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui bank for SFr2.4 billion ($1.9 billion) in 1999.
Banca del Gottardo posted a first-half net profit of SFr44.2 million in 2005.
Swiss Life made a first-half net profit of SFr463 million in 2005.

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