UBS held its annual general meeting on Wednesday morning amid a difficult political environment, following its takeover of Credit Suisse last month. Shareholders gathered in Basel seeking clarity on the board’s plans for the merger, which has been mired in controversy, legal issues, and public skepticism. UBS Chairman Colm Kelleher emphasized the opportunities ahead for the combined bank and Swiss financial sector, while also acknowledging the significant risks associated with the integration.
UBS plans to reduce the capital allocated to its investment arm to below 25% of risk-weighted assets. The Credit Suisse integration is expected to take around three to four years, excluding Credit Suisse’s non-core investment bank portfolio. New CEO Sergio Ermotti takes the reins as UBS takes on the mammoth task of integrating Credit Suisse’s business. UBS reported a full-year profit of $7.6 billion in 2022 and remains up more than 10% since the turn of the year.
Concerns remain over the scale of the new entity and whether it creates too much concentrated risk for the Swiss and global economy. Reports suggest UBS’ plans may include job cuts of around 20-30% of the combined entity’s global workforce. Credit Suisse held its final independent AGM in Zurich on Tuesday, after Swiss authorities brokered an “emergency rescue” when the bank’s share price tumbled and depositors fled en masse.
On Tuesday, Credit Suisse shareholders confronted the board, demanding answers and accountability for the rushed 3 billion Swiss franc ($3.3 billion) deal that denied both UBS and Credit Suisse shareholders a vote.
Credit Suisse Chairman Axel Lehmann apologized to shareholders, clients, and employees, saying the bank’s turnaround plan had been on track until turmoil in the U.S. banking sector sparked a loss of confidence. On Wednesday, the UBS shareholders’ mood was “totally different” from the previous day, according to Peter V. Kunz, Chair in Economic Law and Comparative Law at the University of Bern. He noted that UBS shareholders were happy and saw the prospects of the future, though some remained uncertain about the combined entity’s outlook.
The Swiss Federal Prosecutor is investigating the state-backed takeover for potential breaches of Swiss federal law by government officials, regulators, and top executives. Swiss regulator FINMA held a press conference on Wednesday, laying the blame squarely at the door of Credit Suisse management and setting out why the forced merger was the best possible outcome.