* GE wants to seal sale of GE Money Bank by end Q1 2013
* GE in process of shedding non-core assets
* Deal could be worth 1.5 billion Swiss francs
* If UBS buys, would be first big deal since Pactual
By Oliver Hirt
ZURICH, Dec 4 U.S. group General Electric
wants to sell its Swiss consumer lending business and UBS
is a possible bidder in a deal that could be worth up
to 1.5 billion Swiss francs ($1.6 billion), sources said.
Swiss bank UBS is one of at least two parties who planned to
submit bids for GE Money Bank in an auction process, two people
familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.
"GE wants to finalise the sale ... by the end of the first
quarter," one of the sources said.
Zurich-based GE Money Bank Switzerland employs more than 700
people, has 25 branches and is active in personal loans, vehicle
financing, credit cards and insurance services recording a
profit of 135 million francs in 2011. Swiss consumer lending is
estimated to be a 15 billion franc market in loan volume.
Neither GE Money Bank nor UBS would comment.
Under GE chief executive Jeff Immelt, the largest U.S.
conglomerate has been selling non-core assets, such as a $1.5
billion stake in Thailand's fifth-largest lender Bank of Ayudhya
which is also on the block.
At the start of the financial crisis, GE sold its consumer
credit business in Austria and Germany to Spanish bank Santander
If UBS were to buy the Swiss unit it would be the first deal
of note for Switzerland's biggest bank since the financial
crisis, when it ran up $50 billion in subprime losses and took a
Swiss government bailout in 2008.
Its last major acquisition was of Brazilian investment bank
Pactual for about $3.1 billion in 2006. UBS was forced to sell
the bank in 2009 to raise capital.
A deal would be the biggest in the Swiss banking industry
since Swiss private bank Safra bought cooperative Rabobank's
controlling stake in Bank Sarasin for 1.04 billion francs.
A UBS purchase of GE Money Bank would confirm its stated
desire to refocus on its home market as it scales back in
In October, UBS said it had earmarked 1.5 billion francs for
investment across all businesses over the next three years and
was to cut 10,000 jobs in a retreat from many fixed-income
Swiss financial markets regulator FINMA said last week it
had banned UBS from making any acquisitions in the investment
banking business after a trading scandal last year cost the bank
UBS, which offers retail banking services in Switzerland and
business loans and mortgages, is not active in consumer lending,
a market dominated by GE Money Bank, Credit Suisse's
BANK-now unit and Cashgate, jointly run by Swiss cantonal banks
and cooperatives Raiffeisen, Migros and Bank Coop.