UPDATE 4-Sarasin sees net inflows in 2012

Thu Feb 23, 2012 1:02pm EST

Related Topics

* Sarasin had outflows of 2.4 bln Sfr in H2

* Assets under management drop 6.7 pct in 2011

* Sees overall inflows in 2012 despite more client withdrawals over tax

* No outflows seen over central bank governor data scandal

* No exposure expected to U.S. tax probe (adds Sarasin selling NZB stake)

By Emma Thomasson and Oliver Hirt

BASEL, Switzerland, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Swiss private bank Sarasin, rattled by a data leak on the account of the former central bank head and currently taking steps to ensure all accounts are taxed, said it expects clients to trust it with more assets in 2012.

Sarasin, also facing a change of ownership which deterred customers in 2011, said clients withdrew a net 2.4 billion Swiss francs ($2.63 billion) in the second half of 2011 as assets under management slipped 6.7 percent in 2011 to 96.4 billion francs, mainly due to sluggish market performance.

The bank expects 8-10 percent growth in net new assets in 2012 and hopes to recruit 75 new client advisers though Sarasin also sees some outflows in 2012 as it implements a strategy to focus on managing only taxed assets.

After months of speculation about its Sarasin holding, Dutch cooperative Rabobank sold its majority stake to Brazilian-Swiss private bank Safra in November. The bank expects the deal to be completed by the middle of the year.

"New clients showed a great reluctance to commit funds in the second half of 2011 because of media speculation about the change in Bank Sarasin's shareholder structure," Sarasin Chief Executive Joachim Straehle told a news conference on Thursday.

He said the bank had not lost any assets after the bank revealed in January an employee had breached strict bank secrecy laws by passing the bank account details of Swiss National Bank Chairman Philipp Hildebrand to his political opponents.

That leak - which revealed details of a lucrative dollar trade by Hildebrand's wife just weeks before the central bank moved to cap the franc - ultimately cost Hildebrand his job.

SWISS BANKS UNDER PRESSURE OVER TAX

Switzerland announced plans on Wednesday to force its secretive banks to do more to make sure foreign clients' money is taxed in an attempt to shake off its image as a haven for untaxed funds after pressure from U.S. and German tax probes.

Straehle said in an interview he had no indication that Sarasin might become embroiled in a U.S. investigation into 11 Swiss banks, noting the Basel-based bank had stopped dealing with U.S. clients in 2008.

Sarasin also said on Thursday it had sold its stake in Neue Zuercher Bank (NZB), one of the 11 banks under investigation by U.S. officials, in an attempt to isolate itself from problem U.S. client assets.

The global crackdown on tax evasion by cash-strapped governments is causing a big shake-up in Swiss private banking that is prompting a wave of consolidation as many smaller players struggle to survive without the lucrative business of managing untaxed assets.

Straehle said the fact the bank's future was secure now Safra had taken a stake should mean the bank can return to a growth path and poach staff from other struggling players.

"We are convinced that our focus on sustainability and tax-compliant assets will pay off in the long run and that with the backing of Safra as a well-capitalised majority shareholder we can look forward to exciting prospects," he said.

He estimated about 5 percent of the bank's assets under management had been undeclared and reiterated a target for assets under management of 150 billion francs by 2015.

Sarasin shares closed down 0.4 percent compared with a 0.7 percent weaker European banking sector. ($1 = 0.9116 Swiss francs) (Additional reporting by Katie Reid in Zurich; Editing by Jane Merriman and Elaine Hardcastle)

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