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UBS profits down

Peter Wuffli, the president of executive management at UBS, said the results were encouraging Keystone Archive

Switzerland's largest banking group, UBS, has posted net profits of SFr1.363 billion ($850 million) for the first quarter.

At the same time, UBS announced that the chairman of UBS Warburg, Markus Granziol, would leave the investment bank at the end of August. No reason was given for his departure.

In a statement, UBS said that although its first quarter profit was 14 per cent down on the comparable period last year, it was up by 23 per cent over the fourth quarter of 2001.

Although the market environment remained difficult, revenues continued to recover, showing the benefit of a diverse business mix, the group statement said.

Difficult environment

“The market environment remains difficult, but the progress of all our businesses is very encouraging,” commented the president of the executive management Peter Wuffli.

“We continue to see the benefits of our disciplined cost and risk management, our strategic focus and our diverse business mix,” he added.

UBS said wealth management results proved “resilient” despite the uncertain sentiment and that UBS Warburg’s Corporate and Institutional Clients unit performed “very well” – driven by fixed income results.

It added that a large proportion of the group’s drop in first quarter profit (compared with the same period last year) was recorded by UBS Capital, which continued to post disappointing results as wider economic difficulties depressed private equity valuations.

UBS, the world largest manager of private client wealth, said client assets at the end of March totalled SFr2.468 trillion, while clients invested SFr11.8 billion in net new money in the first quarter.

Operating income in the first quarter was SFr9.589 billion, down five per cent compared with the first quarter of 2001 but up by 13 per cent compared with last year’s fourth quarter.

Improvement unlikely

In its outlook for the year as a whole, UBS commented that its results were unlikely to improve on last year’s performance because it was “far from certain” how strong any global economic recovery would be.

UBS made a profit in 2001 of SFr4.973 billion, after a performance of SFr7.792 billion the previous year.

Analysts on average had forecast that UBS net profit for the first quarter would be SFr1.155 billion.

Market surprised

In announcing management changes, UBS surprised the market with the announcement that Granziol had decided to step down.

The Financial Times noted that his departure would remove the strongest internal rival to UBS group chairman Marcel Ospel.

Granziol’s decision, it commented, came after he was sidelined by Ospel late last year.

He was removed as CEO of UBS Warburg and made chairman at the same time as Ospel ousted Briton Luqman Arnold as president of the group executive board, both having disagreed with Ospel’s failed attempt to rescue Swissair.

UBS said that John Costas, current CEO of UBS Warburg, would replace Granziol as chairman of the investment bank from September, while retaining his current position.

In a related development, Zurich Financial Services has invited Granziol to join its board of directors as a non-executive member.

In a statement, Zurich noted that before joining the former Swiss Bank Corporation in 1987, Granziol had been chief of staff of the Swiss National Bank and a lecturer in macro-economics and financial theory at the University of Zurich.

The approval of Zurich shareholders is expected to be sought at the company’s annual meeting in 2003.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR