Zurich: Swiss bank Credit Suisse’s third-quarter net profit tumbled 74% to undershoot forecasts as sluggish equities trading cut further into investment banking profits.
Investment banking pretax income halved to 395 million francs from an already subdued 784 million in the second quarter, raising question marks against chief executive Brady Dougan’s bold strategy to hire investment bankers aggressively.
“Investment banking is ... treading water, but they seem to be slipping under,” said Helvea analyst Peter Thorne, adding the consensus profit in the segment was 747 million francs.
Dougan, former head of investment banking, steered Switzerland’s No. 2 bank by market value behind UBS safely through the financial crisis without government aid and helped CS steal market share from weakened rival UBS.
Investors will be keen to see if erstwhile CS CEO Oswald Grubel, who was brought out of retirement to turn around UBS, can do better than his former CS charge Dougan when UBS reports its quarterly figures next week on 26 Oct.
As the first big European bank to report, CS’s disappointing profit echoed the surprise loss on weak trading volumes reported by Morgan Stanley on Wednesday and rekindled concerns about a weak third quarter after results from many US banks were not as bad as feared.
“In contrast to the better than expected results from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse’s results are a 38% miss due to lower than expected revenues and costs remaining high,” says Andrew Lim at Matrix.
Shares in Credit Suisse traded 2.6 % lower at 1005 GMT, against a 0.1 % dip in the Stoxx 600 European banks index and a 0.4 % fall in UBS stock.
They had already fallen around 15 % this year, against a 10 % rise in the stock of UBS, playing catch-up to CS’s strong rally in 2009.
Turgid equity markets took their toll on investment banking earnings, though fixed income, underwriting and advisory operations performed well as the hiring drive started to bear some fruit, said chief financial officer David Mathers.
The two big Swiss banks have cut back on proprietary trading as local regulators urge a stronger focus on traditional wealth management than riskier investment banking, making earnings less volatile but less spectacular than many US counterparts.
Private Bank Outperforms
Earnings at CS’s bedrock private bank outstripped the normally more lucrative investment banking segment for a second quarter running: “We believe the prospects for growth remain very attractive and our private bank is poised to capitalise as markets improve,” Dougan said.
CS gained client money from emerging markets and from the super rich in its Swiss onshore business, making up for shrinking private banking in mature European markets, it said.
Dougan also said that a resolution of Switzerland’s spat with Germany over its role as a tax shelter for wealthy Germans would be positive for Credit Suisse, whose offices were raided by German authorities after they bought client data stolen from the bank.
CS maintained a strong Tier 1 capital ratio of 16.7 %—one of the highest in the industry—versus 16.3 % at the end of the first half, and said it was on track to meet new capital rules to reduce bank risk-taking.
“We are well placed to meet these new requirements and at the same time compete and deliver attractive returns to our shareholders,” Dougan said.
Switzerland is set to adopt more stringent regulations than those set internationally for core capital as well as lift the total capital ratio further by deploying contingent convertible (CoCo) bonds.
This should not result in an increase in CS’s cost of capital and CS remained committed to paying dividends, the bank said on Thursday, adding it sees a strong market developing for CoCos.
This contrasts with UBS, which said last month it will leave dividends on hold as it builds capital and that it is sceptical about the use of CoCos.