Former top Credit Suisse shareholder sells full stake in bank

Logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen in Bern
Switzerland's national flag flies above a logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse in front of a branch office in Bern, Switzerland November 29, 2022. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

March 5 (Reuters) - Harris Associates, one of Credit Suisse's (CSGN.S) major shareholders, has sold its stake in the Swiss bank over the past few months, the deputy chairman and chief investment officer of the activist Chicago-based investor, David Herro, said on Sunday.

Herro did not give a reason for the stake sale, but earlier told the Financial Times that Harris had sold the stake after losing patience with Credit Suisse's strategy to stem persistent losses and a client exodus.

Harris, which had remained loyal despite a string of scandals at Credit Suisse, disclosed a stake of about 10% in the bank last August but reduced it to 5% in January.

Harris had started to cut its exposure in October after Credit Suisse raised 4 billion Swiss francs ($4.3 billion) from investors and when Saudi National Bank supplanted it as the top investor, Herro told the Financial Times, which first reported the news that Harris had sold all its shares.

"There is a question about the future of the franchise. There have been large outflows from wealth management," the newspaper quoted Herro as saying. Credit Suisse reported a sharp acceleration in withdrawals in the fourth quarter, with outflows of more than 110 billion Swiss francs.

"We have lots of other options to invest," he added. "Rising interest rates mean lots of European financials are headed in the other direction. Why go for something that is burning capital when the rest of the sector is now generating it?"

In an emailed statement to Reuters on Sunday, Credit Suisse said, "we are ahead of our plan and have clear strategic objectives."

"We are laser focused on successfully executing our plan and on progressing toward our targets to ensure new Credit Suisse delivers sustainable value for all our stakeholders."

The bank, Switzerland's second biggest, has also begun a major overhaul of its business, cutting costs and jobs to revive its fortunes, including creating a separate business for its investment bank under the CS First Boston brand.

Credit Suisse last month reported its biggest annual loss since the 2008 global financial crisis after rattled clients pulled billions from the bank. It warned of a further "substantial" loss this year.

($1 = 0.9357 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Gokul Pisharody in Bengaluru and Elisa Martinuzzi; Additional reporting by Akriti Sharma and Juby Babu; Editing by Richard Chang and Bradley Perrett

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