Credit Suisse weighs curbing bonuses at time of coronavirus: CEO

FILE PHOTO: Thomas Gottstein, CEO of Swiss bank Credit Suisse in Zurich, Switzerland February 7, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

ZURICH (Reuters) - Credit Suisse CSGN.S bank could restrain 2020 bonuses in a show of unity with victims of the coronavirus epidemic in Switzerland, Chief Executive Thomas Gottstein said on Monday.

In three business days, Switzerland’s second-biggest bank has paid out 1.24 billion Swiss francs ($1.29 billion) in loans to around 7,800 companies since the government last week unveiled a 20 billion franc program of state-backed loans at no or low interest to companies hit hard by the epidemic.

“It is a bit early to talk about 2020 bonuses but we are certainly thinking in the direction that we want to show solidarity,” Gottstein told Swiss broadcaster SRF’s Eco program when asked about willingness to make sacrifices.

The disease has killed around 300 people and sickened more than 15,000 in Switzerland.

The Swiss financial watchdog and government have urged banks to curb dividend payments as a way to accumulate capital they could use to support the economy, but Credit Suisse is sticking to plans to pay out its 2019 dividend.

Gottstein said the bank’s board would decide in autumn what dividend to propose for 2020, but noted it had stopped a share buyback that accounted for two-thirds of payouts to shareholders.

Rival UBS Group UBSG.S stuck to plans to pay a 2019 dividend that is more than half its annual profit.

($1 = 0.9580 Swiss francs)

(This story adds dropped word ‘about’ in paragraph 3.)

Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by Grant McCool