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(Bloomberg) -- EFG International AG, the Swiss private bank controlled by billionaire Spiro Latsis and his family, sought to reassure investors it is coping with the impact of a stronger Swiss franc as it reported a 45 percent drop in full-year net income.
The company will redouble efforts to control costs and is keeping a limited hiring freeze in place while it considers whether to retain all booking centers and keep open offices that are marginally profitable, the Zurich-based company said in a statement Wednesday.
It proposed a dividend of 0.25 franc per share, up 25 percent from 0.20 franc last year. EFG also said Joachim Straehle, 56, former chief executive officer of what is now Bank J. Safra Sarasin AG, will succeed Chairman Jean Pierre Cuoni, 77, who is stepping down because of his age.
Net income was 61.4 million ($64.7 million) francs, beating an average estimate of 55.6 million francs from eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That compared with 111.8 million francs a year earlier.
Swiss banks have been reviewing costs since the central bank set the franc free last month and introduced charges on sight deposits. EFG reports costs in francs and derives most of its revenue in euros and dollars. At current levels the appreciation of the Swiss franc against the euro would have a single digit percentage impact on pretax profit, the company said.
Net income was also affected by “exceptional legal and professional charges and provisions,” including 30 million francs for its participation in a U.S. Justice Department program offering leniency in return for help flushing out tax evaders. EFG, one of about 100 firms that entered the voluntary disclosure program for Swiss wealth managers, said expects to pay a fine of 10.8 million francs to avoid prosecution.
“Even though last year was impacted by exceptional legal and regulatory expenses, and developments relating to the Swiss franc have highlighted again that we live in uncertain times, it was also a year that saw business momentum continuing to build,” Chief Executive Officer John Williamson said in the statement.
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