May 19, 2011 / 10:52 PM / in 7 years

UPDATE 1-UBS keeping US wealth unit, executives say

* Unit head McCann says not approached by Wells Fargo

* COO Sands tell Reuters business not for sale

* McCann, Sands say business is integral to UBS

By Philipp Gollner and Joseph A. Giannone (Rewrites first paragraph; adds comments by UBS Wealth Management Americas COO)

SAN FRANCISCO, May 19 (Reuters) UBS AG UBSN.VX denied on Thursday speculation its U.S.-based wealth management business was for sale and the unit’s chief said he had not been approached by rumored bidder Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N).

“I can tell you, it isn’t true,” UBS Wealth Management Americas Chief Executive Robert McCann told Bloomberg Television when asked whether he had been approached by Wells Fargo. “I have not been a part of any meeting with Wells Fargo.”

Anita Sands, the unit’s chief operating officer, told Reuters McCann and UBS Chief Executive Officer Oswald Gruebel have “repeatedly and consistently” said the business is not for sale.

McCann “has not been involved in any discussions,” Sands said. “UBS Wealth Management Americas is an integral part of UBS’ business model. Wealth management is an integral part of a durable business model. We are not for sale.”

    The Zurich-based bank’s denials followed a week of renewed speculation about the future of UBS Wealth Management Americas, the former PaineWebber Inc brokerage that UBS bought in 2000. The business had more than 30 billion Swiss francs in net outflows of client funds in the three years through 2010, but had 3.6 billion francs of net new money in the first quarter.

    Speculation about a possible sale to Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest U.S. bank by assets, was rekindled after Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst Frederick Cannon wrote in a May 13 research report that San Francisco-based Wells Fargo could buy the business for about $6 billion.

    “The acquisition of UBS Wealth Management Americas could be the best fit for Wells Fargo as it would create greater scale in the brokerage/wealth management industry that is highly fragmented,” Cannon wrote.

    McCann, whose unit had 6,811 financial advisers and 700 billion francs under management at the end of March, said Gruebel has repeatedly made clear the unit is not for sale.

    “Ossie Gruebel, our group CEO, and I have been incredibly consistent in any place we’ve talked or written about this,” McCann told Bloomberg’s “InBusiness with Margaret Brennan” segment. “This is a business that is an important part of UBS. It’s an important part of our platform in the Americas. We like the wealth management business globally. It’s an important part of who UBS is.” (Reporting by Philipp Gollner and Joseph A. Giannone; editing by Andre Grenon)

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