Swiss central bank fund pays off UBS rescue

ZURICH (AFP) - The Swiss National Bank (SNB) said on Friday that a massive loan to rescue UBS bank during the financial crisis had been paid off and UBS could now repurchase its once toxic assets.

SNB said its so-called stabilisation fund, or StabFund, had by Thursday completely paid off the last portion of a US$25.8-billion (S$32.8-billion) loan issued in 2008 to save UBS, which was among the global banks hardest hit by the crisis.

The completion of the final payment of 1.2 billion Swiss francs (S$1.63 billion) means that UBS, the biggest Swiss bank, will now be permitted to go ahead with its plan to repurchase once-toxic assets, central bank spokesman Walter Meier told AFP.

The price will be set by independent agents who will assess the current value of the assets, the central bank said in a statement.

UBS lost billions of dollars in the United States subprime home-loan crisis and the ensuing financial turmoil.

A collapse of the bank would have been catastrophic for the small Alpine country's economy.

In a rescue operation, the central bank set up the StabFund to take over assets considered toxic worth US$38.7 billion.

The central bank also pumped US$3.9 billion into the bank, which UBS has repaid to ensure its right to repurchase its assets once the loan had been reimbursed.

When it published its results last month, UBS said it planned to take advantage of this repurchasing option in the final quarter of the year.

According to the agreement, the central bank will receive the first US$1.0 billion of the remaining equity capital in the StabFund, while it will split the rest equally with UBS.

Following the announcement, the price of shares in UBS slipped 0.1 per cent to 19.05 Swiss francs a piece in late morning trading as the main index of the Swiss stock exchange shed 0.5 per cent.