ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland’s UBS is still facing difficult market conditions after a tough second quarter and is reviewing its mid-term goals, the bank’s chairman was quoted as saying on Sunday.
Kaspar Villiger also warned in the interview with Switzerland’s SonntagsZeitung that the bank was facing currency headwinds.
“The strong Swiss franc is also a risk for us. We have no interest in a strong franc as our business suffers from this,” Villiger said.
When asked if the bank would be able to meet its mid-term goals, including a pretax profit of around 15 billion Swiss francs ($17.8 billion), Villiger said: “(Chief Executive Oswald) Gruebel has always emphasized these goals were based on a market assumption and the regulatory framework from earlier.
“Now the market environment has sharply deteriorated and the regulatory environment is significantly different. But we are convinced that we will be able to earn returns in line with the market,” he said.
The bank is now taking a range of factors into consideration when looking at its mid-term goals such as the evolving regulatory environment and the volatile market conditions. Villiger said the bank would update investors at the appropriate time, possibly in November this year.
Further cost reductions were also inevitable, Villiger said, as growth prospects were muted for the foreseeable future.
UBS has already said it is cutting around 500 technical staff, while Britain’s HSBC Holdings Plc, Lloyds Banking Group Plc, Italy’s Banco Popolare, Switzerland’s Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs have all said they will shed jobs.
“I also can’t rule out further job cuts,” Villiger said, but he added the bank was looking to expand in some markets, such as Switzerland, where it is still trying to win back market share and build up its reputation after the financial crisis.
A tough second quarter for investment banking earnings, dragged down by sovereign debt woes in Europe and trading jitters, is prompting many to cut back in areas where revenue has been disappointing.
Villiger also said in the interview there were no plans for UBS to sell its U.S. business and that UBS’s investment bank was a key part of its business.
“The center of our strategy is the wealth management business. For this we need a global, competitive investment bank,” he said.
“The U.S. business was disappointing in the past, but in the first quarter it managed the turnaround. We have not yet reached our goal, but we are on track. A sale is not a topic,” he said.
Villiger declined to give any insight as to how long Gruebel would stay at the helm of UBS, saying only the generation change was a mid-term task.
UBS said last week it would nominate Weber to the board at the annual general meeting in May 2012, and that he was expected to take over as chairman from 70-year-old Villiger in 2013.
Like Villiger, Gruebel was brought back from retirement to clean up the bank.
Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Will Waterman