UBS: no longer in one piece?

August 12, 2008

ubs.jpgIt is now official — Swiss bank UBS has ditched its much-cherished “One Bank” strategy.

The bank said it would split its business in three autonomous units, after taking yet another credit hit and posting a worse-than-expected second-quarter loss.

The news will spark further talk the bank may hive off business units such as its embattled investment bank. UBS in a conference call would not rule out divestments further down the line, though it said it was not now working on such plans.

The bank is already Europe’s biggest victim of the credit crisis. Today, it took another $5.1 billion hit on credit positions, bringing the total to $41 billion. More importantly, it saw hefty outflows out of its wealth management business for rich clients.

The news comes just days after it was forced to buy back billions of dollars worth of auction-rate securities to compensate for client losses in the United States.

In reply, it is now saying it is “repositioning” itself. It is splitting up its business in three separate units. It is calling its wealth management unit — for rich clients — its “core asset”. It says it will continue to invest in wealth management, but does not put equal stress on its investment bank.

These may be small steps, but markets liked the news. UBS shares were more than three percent up in early trading.

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