BRUSSELS/ZURICH (Reuters) - Belgian private bank Puilaetco Dewaay said on Thursday it had agreed to buy UBS Belgium, the Belgian operations of Swiss bank UBS, for an undisclosed sum.
The deal brings to an end the Swiss bank’s efforts to tap wealthy Belgians on their home turf, where it managed to attract far less money than in neighboring France and where its top private banker ran into legal trouble.
For Brussels-based Puilaetco Dewaay, the deal bolsters client assets by nearly one-third to roughly 10 billion euros($12.5 billion), provided the Swiss bank’s clients opt to move to the Belgian bank.
“This transaction represents an outstanding opportunity, in a highly competitive environment, to rapidly expand our team, meet increased demand and lay the foundation for accelerated future growth,” Puilaetco Dewaay head Thierry Smets said in a statement.
UBS employs 60 staff in Belgium, including 20 private bankers. Puilaetco Dewaay is owned by Luxembourg-based KBL European Private Bankers, which also owns German private bank Merck Finck.
A UBS spokesman said the sale was part of a strategy for the Swiss bank to focus on onshore private banking — catering to clients on their home turf — in core markets.
With 3 billion euros in assets, UBS’ Belgian activities were tiny in comparison to neighboring markets including France and Britain, which manage 358 billion Swiss francs ($371 billion) in total European onshore money.
In June, a Belgian judge charged the unit’s head, Marcel Bruehwiler, with involvement in an alleged multi-billion euro tax fraud by the Swiss bank, after raiding his home and those of a client. Bruehwiler denied all charges, prosecutors said.
A Brussels prosecutor said on Thursday the investigation into Bruehwiler was ongoing.
A source familiar with the matter said Bruehwiler had offers to join KBL European Private Bankers or remain with UBS. Through a spokesman, Bruehwiler declined to comment.
(This story corrects tenth paragraph to show that Bruehwiler has an offer from KBL European Private Bankers, not Puilaetco Dewaay)
Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Katharina Bart; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Mark Potter