UBS shares fall on further write-down fears

ZURICH (Reuters) - Shares in Swiss bank UBS AG UBSN.VX fell again on Friday as fears of more massive losses mounted after equity analysts at Citigroup said UBS could need up to $18 billion in additional write-downs in 2008.

The logo of Swiss bank UBS is pictured in front of its branch at the St-Francois Place in Lausanne February 14, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

UBS, the world’s largest manager of money for the wealthy, has already written down $18 billion in losses in 2007 due to its exposure to U.S. subprime mortgages and linked assets, and wants shareholders to approve an emergency capital hike later this month.

Shares in UBS were down 3.6 percent at 36.14 francs in early trade, a day after falling 8 percent when it revealed it still had $80 billion in exposure to subprime loans and other debt.

Its shares are now at levels not seen since mid-2003.

“We estimate that the $80 billion remaining exposures could need 12-20 billion francs more markdowns in 2008,” said the Citigroup note, which was published on Thursday.

A UBS spokeswoman said “our exposures are disclosed”, but declined to comment on speculation of further write-downs to come.

Societe Generale cut its price target on the stock to 32 francs from a previous 40, while traders speculated the shares could bottom out at 25 francs.

Investment bank Exane BNP cut its investment rating on the bank’s shares to “underperform” from “neutral” and set a price target of 45 francs.

The new downgrades follow a spate of similar downgrades that came in the wake of UBS’s announcement on Thursday.

“Traders expect the shares will fall to CHF 25 in the near future,” said one note circulating among Zurich traders.

UBS shares have fallen over 29 percent so far in 2008 after falling 29 percent in 2007.

Reporting by Andrew Hurst and Thomas Atkins, editing by Will Waterman