UPDATE 2-EFG slashes profit forecast, says CEO to step down
* Cuts 2011 estimate to 140-160 mln Sfr from 200 mln Sfr
* Co-founder Howell steps down as CEO with immediate effect
* Successor Williamson says marks shift to profits vs growth
* Shares down 1.2 pct after hitting 27-month low
(Adds CEO-elect comment, shares)
By Martin de Sa'Pinto
ZURICH, June 27 (Reuters) - Swiss private bank and asset manager EFG International AG slashed its 2011 profit forecast on Monday as the strong Swiss franc hit revenues and said long-time Chief Executive Lonnie Howell was stepping down.
The bank said based on year-to-date performance, it expected a core net profit of 140 million to 160 million Swiss francs ($167 million to $191 million) for 2011, down from the 200 million franc target set earlier this year.
Shares traded 1.2 percent lower at 8.08 Swiss francs at 0828 GMT, underperforming a slightly lower Stoxx European Banks index , after earlier hitting a 27-month low at 7.81 francs.
John Williamson, previously head of the bank's UK and Channel Islands subsidiary, will take over from Howell as Chief executive once he has been approved by the Swiss regulator, FINMA.
Williamson said in a conference call that his appointment marked a shift of EFG's focus from growth, under Howell, to earnings and value, and that the bank would review each business and could exit certain less profitable businesses.
However he poured water on suggestions the bank was preparing itself for a sale.
"The focus of the review is not one of disposal or other similar concepts, but on profitability," Williamson said.
Earlier this month Howell told Reuters EFG could be hard-pressed to meet its earlier profit target if the Swiss franc remained at historically high levels.
Howell, who co-founded the bank along with current chairman Jean Pierre Cuoni and has been at the helm for 16 years, will step down with immediate effect.
He remains a major shareholder of the bank and will be proposed as a member of the board of directors. He will also become chairman of the bank's Financial Products arm.
The bank is part of the EFG Group, which also controls Greek listed lender Eurobank EFG EFGr.AT. Specialised mid-sized wealth manager EFG International, faces competition at home from rivals Vontobel and Sarasin . ($1=.8390 Swiss Franc) (Editing by Will Waterman and Hans-Juergen Peters)
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