Credit Suisse to buy Morgan Stanley's wealth business

ZURICH (AFP) - The Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse on Wednesday announced that it will buy US bank Morgan Stanley's wealth management businesses in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, excluding Switzerland.

The assets under management are worth US$13 billion (S$16 billion), Credit Suisse said in a statement, but the price of the deal, set to be finalised later this year, was not disclosed.

The businesses, based in Britain, Italy and Dubai, primarily serve ultra-high net worth and high net worth clients across Europe, the bank said.

The acquired businesses are to be folded into Credit Suisse's private banking and wealth management division.

The Swiss bank said the transaction would complement its wealth management business in Europe, notably in the British market where the acquisition will put the bank among the top 10 wealth managers.

"Accelerating our growth momentum in our international markets and in our UHNW (ultra-high net worth) client segment remains a key priority for Credit Suisse," said Mr Romeo Lacher, Credit Suisse's head of private banking for western Europe.

Mr Rainer Skierka of Swiss bank Sarasin said in a research note that the announcement was a "surprise".

"In general, we welcome CS' step to further strengthen its wealth management business, which represents the highest value for its shareholders in the firm's business mix," he said.

"However, for a detailed opinion, we would need more financial and transactional details, which at this stage have not yet been communicated," he added.

Last year, Swiss private bank Julius Baer took over the international wealth management arm of US player Merrill Lynch, and analysts said the Credit Suisse announcement underlined a trend in the sector.

"In our view, the sale by Morgan Stanley of its EMEA wealth management business as well as the recent sale of Merrill Lynch of its wealth management business outside the US indicates that the wealth management players worldwide are refocusing their business geographically to focus on their core business or add scale," said Ms Teresa Nielsen of Swiss bank Vontobel.

"We believe the acquisition is positive for Credit Suisse," she added.

Shares in the group fell however by 1.22 per cent to 25.02 Swiss francs (S$32.60) in afternoon trading on the Zurich stock exchange, while the SMI index on which they are listed was down by 0.79 per cent overall.