Analysts await UBS move on job cuts, any further writedowns

ZURICH - SWISS banking giant UBS, currently the bank worst hit by the subprime crisis, is likely to announce job cuts when it posts financial results for the first quarter next week, analysts said on Sunday.

UBS is likely to announce the results on Tuesday, and according to some analysts it may also reveal further losses.

In early April UBS had already warned it would probably post a loss of 12 billion Swiss francs (S$15.4 billion) for the first quarter.

'The market is keenly awaiting first quarter results from UBS next week, which could determine the direction the entire sector takes in the near term,' said Bank Vontobel in a note to investors.

Banque Cantonale Vaudoise said UBS 'should be announcing a plan to cut jobs.' UBS, which has already cut 1,500 jobs could cut another 8,000 - about 10 per cent of its total staff - according to a report last week by Swiss newspaper Sonntag.

The newspaper estimated that fresh writedowns could reach 10 billion Swiss francs during the quarter, adding to the 19 billion already announced in the first quarter.

For Bank Wegelin, what is important would be 'the future strategy and the measures taken by the management' to put back on track the bank, as well as to restore confidence of the clients and investors.

UBS has so far been the bank worst hit by the subprime crisis, with writedowns reaching over US$37 billion (S$50.5 billion). To plug the blackhole, UBS has already had to seek recapitalisation.

The first of the new capital was raised from Singapore sovereign fund Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and an unnamed Middle Eastern investor. Betwen them, they put in 13 billion Swiss francs.

Later, UBS asked its shareholders for an additional 15 billion Swiss francs.

During its annual general meeting on April 23, chief executive Marcel Rohner said the bank would reassess its investment banking unit, which has drawn criticism for being responsible for most of the subprime losses.

'We no longer aim to offer everything to everyone in investment banking,' he said then.

'We do not need an oversized balance sheet. We do not need an oversized inventory of trading portfolios. And we do not need an unnecessary concentration of risk.' The investment bank should in the future generate its own capital which it needs for its future growth, said Mr Rohner, fuelling expectations that the unit, which employs about 22,000 people, would be cut back. -- AFP


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