UBS net profit jumps 14% in third quarter

Although wealth management earnings have picked up, UBS still sees risks which could keep clients from trading, including the unwinding of the European Central Bank's balance sheet and political tensions in United States-North Korea relations.
Although wealth management earnings have picked up, UBS still sees risks which could keep clients from trading, including the unwinding of the European Central Bank's balance sheet and political tensions in United States-North Korea relations.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Wealth management earnings pick up but risks such as political uncertainty remain

ZURICH • UBS, the world's biggest private bank, posted a 14 per cent year-on-year jump in third-quarter net profit but kept a cautious outlook for the rest of this year due to political and monetary policy uncertainty.

The three months to the end of last month saw earnings in wealth management again pick up after a sluggish time last year, in which trading activity by the Swiss bank's wealthy clients hit a record low.

Nevertheless, faced with the unwinding of the European Central Bank's balance sheet and political tensions including frosty United States-North Korea relations, UBS still sees risks which could keep clients from trading.

"We expect the global economic recovery to strengthen further, but geopolitical tensions and macroeconomic uncertainty still pose risks to client sentiment," Switzerland's biggest bank said in a statement yesterday. "In particular, high asset prices, uncertainty over central bank balance sheet and interest rate policies, seasonality factors and the persistence of low volatility may continue to affect overall client activity."

Overall group net profit came in at 946 million Swiss francs (S$1.29 billion) in the third quarter.

This was lower than the median forecast in a Reuters poll of six analysts for 1.04 billion francs but ahead of the Swiss bank's own consensus report published on Oct 6 for 897 million francs.

UBS' common equity tier 1 (CET1) capital ratio, an important measure of balance sheet strength which UBS uses to help decide its dividend, rose to 13.7 per cent from 13.5 per cent. A drop in its CET1 ratio last quarter had been a source of concern for some investors.

CAUTIOUS OUTLOOK

We expect the global economic recovery to strengthen further, but geopolitical tensions and macroeconomic uncertainty still pose risks to client sentiment.

UBS STATEMENT

Adjusted pre-tax operating profit at its international wealth management division rose 9 per cent to 701 million francs in the quarter, usually a slow period due to the summer break.

Net new money inflows - a closely watched indicator of future earnings in money management - totalled 4.6 billion francs at its international wealth management unit and negative US$2.3 billion (S$3.15 billion) at its North America wealth management business.

"In our view, UBS reported relatively solid 3Q17 results, but we also see some shadows," Baader Helvea analysts, who rate the stock "buy", wrote in a note, citing the outflows in wealth management in the Americas.

Its investment bank, which UBS has scaled back in recent years to free up resources for wealth management, saw adjusted pre-tax operating profit rise 2.9 per cent to 352 million francs.

UBS was boosted by a positive impact from deferred tax assets (DTAs) - tax breaks from losses suffered in the financial crisis - of 272 million francs, though this was less than the roughly 400 million francs a year earlier.

Group pre-tax income was up 39 per cent at 1.2 billion francs.

UBS said it had achieved 1.9 billion francs of its 2.1 billion franc cost-cutting target and is "on track" to achieve this aim by the year end.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2017, with the headline 'UBS net profit jumps 14% in third quarter'. Print Edition | Subscribe