UBS profit almost doubles on higher revenue as new funds soar

UBS Group, Switzerland's biggest bank, said net income in the first three months of the year almost doubled in a quarter that saw all divisions beat analyst estimates. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
UBS Group, Switzerland's biggest bank, said net income in the first three months of the year almost doubled in a quarter that saw all divisions beat analyst estimates. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

ZURICH (Bloomberg) - UBS Group, Switzerland's biggest bank, said net income in the first three months of the year almost doubled in a quarter that saw all divisions beat analyst estimates.

Net income rose 88 per cent to 1.98 billion Swiss francs (S$2.83 billion), up from 1.05 billion francs a year earlier, UBS said Tuesday. That compares with the 1.22 billion-franc average estimate of seven analysts in a survey compiled by Bloomberg.

Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti, who reorganized the bank to focus on wealth management, is seeking to improve returns by cutting costs while litigation expenses persist. The bank attracted 14.4 billion francs in new funds at its main money management unit, topping estimates after a weak fourth quarter.

"We stayed disciplined on risk and we delivered across all businesses and regions," Ermotti said in the statement. "The results again demonstrate the benefits of a strategy defined early."

UBS shares gained 11 per cent this year, compared with a 14 per cent increase in the Stoxx Europe 600 Banks Price Index.

Wealth management pretax profit rose 54 per cent to 951 million francs, beating analysts' estimate of 699 million francs.

UBS is changing the pricing on some wealth management accounts in light of the interest rate environment in Switzerland and parts of Europe, the bank said. While this may cause outflows at the division, UBS expects net new money to remain positive in the second quarter, the bank said.

Pretax profit at the investment bank rose 82 percent to 774 million francs, helped by an increase in trading amid higher market volatility and strong client activity.

UBS is among a group of banks that may have to pay about $1 billion to settle with the U.S. Justice Department for attempting to rig currency markets, people familiar with the talks said in March. The bank in November was ordered to pay about US$800 million by regulators in the U.S., Britain and Switzerland in separate probes.

The bank took a provision of 1.84 billion francs in the third quarter last year and said it was in talks with the criminal and antitrust divisions of the U.S. Justice Department. It added 176 million francs in litigation provisions in the fourth quarter.

The Justice Department is also weighing whether evidence of wrongdoing in currency trading means banks violated old deals resolving probes into the rigging of benchmark interest rates, two people familiar with the matter said in March.