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Rabobank takes hold of Bank Sarasin

Basel-based Bank Sarasin has bounced back from losses a few years ago Keystone

Dutch cooperative bank Rabobank has announced an increase in its stake in Swiss private bank Sarasin to 46 per cent, giving it full control of the Basel-based firm.

This content was published on January 9, 2007 - 12:08

For its part, Sarasin, which along with other mid-sized wealth managers has faced stiff competition from banking giants such as UBS, has unveiled ambitious growth goals.

Under the SFr445 million ($360 million) deal, Rabobank has acquired a 46 per cent stake Sarasin's equity capital and 69 per cent of its voting rights.

In a statement, Sarasin said on Tuesday it welcomed the move and support for its growth strategy.

"Sarasin will retain its operational independence as one of the leading Swiss private banks and remain listed on the SWX Swiss [stock] exchange," said the statement.

Joachim Straehle, who took over as Sarasin's chief executive officer, on September 1, said he aimed to increase profitability and efficiency at the bank.

This included boosting assets above SFr100 billion by 2010, compared with SFr63 billion at the end of June.

On the lookout

He added that he was on the lookout for selected acquisitions and areas of cooperation.

"In both areas we will benefit from Rabobank's sound reputation and its strong international network," said Straehle.

The deal ends months of speculation that the Dutch agricultural lender was intending to back out of Sarasin, which has undergone wide-ranging restructuring in recent years in an effort to lower costs and increase assets under management.

Mid-sized bank such as Sarasin and its rivals, Vontobel and Julius Baer have struggled to keep pace with the growth of larger banks including giants Credit Suisse and UBS. This has led to speculation that these smaller banks would need to consolidate to survive.

Last year Switzerland's second-largest bank Credit Suisse announced the merger of four private banks and a securities dealer to create a new operation called Clariden Leu.

Amsterdam-based Rabobank said it did not intend to increase its stake further but would make a mandatory offer – as set out by Swiss law – for Sarasin's Class B shares, which are listed on the Swiss Exchange. This is still subject to approval by the authorities.

The move by Rabobank came as a surprise to some observers – in June last year a top official at Sarasin said in a newspaper interview that it was unlikely that Rabobank would want to make the Swiss bank at Dutch company.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Bank Sarasin's origins date back to 1841, when Johannes Riggenbach-Huber founded a company referred to as a "mercantile business", concerned with, among other things, financial transactions.

The company becomes Sarasin in 1900, seven years after Alfred Sarasin-Iselin took over the firm's management.

A series of takeovers and mergers ensure the company's development, and international expansion takes off in the 1980s.

In 2002, Bank Sarasin becomes a limited company and Rabobank becomes a 28%shareholder.

On January 9, 2007, the bank announces that its Dutch shareholder now has a majority stake in the company.

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Bank Sarasin:

Bank Sarasin:
Group profit in 2005: +39% to SFr116 million (SFr83 million in 2004)
Assets under management: +18% to SFr63.5 billion
Employees: around 1,100
Headquarters: Basel

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