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Feb 10, 2009

UBS posts record Swiss loss, cuts 2,000 jobs

Swiss bank UBS on Tuesday posted an annual loss of 17 billion dollars (13 billion euros) in 2008, the largest in Swiss corporate history, and announced 2,000 new job cuts.

Full year loss in 2008 reached 19.697 billion Swiss francs, including 8.1 billion francs worth of losses incurred during the last three months of the year, UBS said in a statement.

Switzerland's biggest bank, which is one of the worst-hit globally by the United States subprime home-loan crisis and the ensuing market fallout, said more jobs would go this year at its investment bank unit, which was responsible for most of the damage.

Despite the figures, the bank said that it would still pay employees bonuses totalling 2.15 billion francs.

Just under half of the sum are bonuses that the company is obliged to pay contractually, while the remaining 1.161 billion francs make up variable bonuses determined by management.

The group's board said it would forego bonuses for 2008.

Chief executive Marcel Rohner reiterated a projection made earlier that UBS would be profitable in 2009 after posting its second consecutive full-year loss.

He said the bank has had "an encouraging start" this year, with positive inflows of assets at its wealth management and asset management units.

"We have had positive net new money in January and an encouraging start into the year. That also refers to trading in (our) investment bank," chief executive officer Marcel Rohner told journalists during a conference call.

The news gave a temporary bounce to the stock, which gained sharply in opening trade before falling back.

At 0812 GMT, it was trading 6.74 percent higher at 13.77 francs, outperforming the overall Swiss Market Index which was up 0.53 percent. By 0837 GMT, however, the stock was up 1.6 percent to 13.11 francs, while the SMI was trading flat.

Stemming a haemorrhage of assets has been a key concern at the bank, after clients withdrew a net 83.6 billion francs worth of assets in the third quarter and 85.8 billion worth in the last three months of the year.

"Overall net new money outflows were particularly heavy in October, but slowed down progressively in November and December," said the bank.

However, the bank warned that it remained "cautious" and that it would continue to cut costs and risks.

It announced another 2,000 job cuts in its investment banking unit on Tuesday, bringing the total job losses since October 2007 to 11,000.

"Financial market conditions remain fragile as company and household cash flows continue to deteriorate. On the other hand, governments are taking very substantial measures to ease fiscal and monetary conditions," the bank noted.

"Our near-term outlook remains cautious, and UBS will continue its programme to strengthen its financial position through reductions in risk positions, risk weighted assets, total assets and operating costs," it added.

An icon of Swiss banking, UBS has experienced two very turbulent years, with billions in asset writedowns and losses that forced it to take on an emergency state aid package worth almost 60 billion dollars late last year.

Source : AFP
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