Credit Suisse sells German private bank to ABN AMRO's Bethmann
ZURICH (Reuters) - Credit Suisse (CSGN.VX) said it would sell its private bank in Germany to Frankfurt-based Bethmann Bank, part of state-owned ABN AMRO - the first sizeable disposal in its private banking business in years.
The Swiss bank is increasingly focusing on ultra-rich clients and selling businesses that do not fit this strategy, such as its domestic private bank in Germany.
"Credit Suisse remains highly committed to the German wealth management market," the bank said in a statement on Thursday, adding its wealthy German clients would be looked after by its businesses in Switzerland and Luxembourg.
Both parties agreed not to disclose financial details of the transaction.
Vontobel analyst Panagiotis Spiliopoulos called the disposal a "good move". He said in a note he estimated Bethmann had paid 100-150 million Swiss francs for the unit.
Adding impetus to Credit Suisse's German sale is the crackdown by German authorities on tax evaders, which has caused difficulties for several Swiss banks.
Credit Suisse paid 150 million euros in 2011 to end an investigation of its employees in Duesseldorf over allegations that they helped Germans dodge taxes. German prosecutors then launched another probe in April this year against more of its employees, including some at its units Clariden Leu and Neue Aargauer.
ABN said Bethmann was acquiring 10 billion euros ($13.6 billion) in assets under management for wealthy clients, or those with at least 1 million euros to invest. That will vault it into third place among private banks in Germany, behind Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) and Commerzbank (CBKG.DE).
"It is part of our strategic focus to be a leading European private bank," said ABN private banking Chief Executive Jeroen Rijpkema.
Bethmann will take over 200 of the 300 staff employed by Credit Suisse's private bank in Germany, increasing its headcount to over 600.
Under pressure from the German government, Credit Suisse said in April it would terminate business relations with German clients by the end of this year if they refused to resolve outstanding tax issues, while Swiss rival UBS has given clients until the end of 2014 to own up to cheating or leave the bank.
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