Thursday, 15 September 2011

UBS hit by $2bn rogue trade


Matthew Czepliewicz, an analyst at Collins Stewart, said the unauthorised loss cuts his 2011 earnings-per-share estimate for UBS by about 30pc - "a huge hit". He continued: "A loss of this magnitude will very likely have occurred in the FICC (Fixed Incomes, Currencies and Commodities) division, the very division UBS has been systematically rebuilding after shrinking it by 40pc during the credit crisis. That an unauthorised position of this size could have escaped oversight will renew pressure on management to radically scale back the FICC business, a volatile and capital-intensive business overall." He said that his upgrade of UBS to "buy" from "hold" on September 6 "now looks memorable, to say the least", but added: "As large and embarrassing as the loss is, it may in fact drive a positive strategic overhaul of the company. In the meantime, we await further detail on what went wrong and how management will respond." Andrew Lim, analyst at Espirito Santo, said the loss was manageable at group level at UBS. He added: "The $2 billion loss compares to our current estimate for the (third-quarter) group net earnings of 1.1 billion Swiss francs and (full-year estimated) net earnings of 5.1 billion Swiss francs. "The loss is therefore manageable at the group level, but is obviously not helpful for sentiment and confidence in the bank's risk management following the near-death experience of 2008/9." Fiona Swaffield, analyst at RBC, put the loss in context: "Assuming the loss is not revised at CHF1.7bn this is 3.4% of tangible book value end Q2 2011 and CHF0.35ps. Relative to target Basel III risk weighted assets of CHF300bn this is some 44bp. UBS on the most conservative measure has core T1 of 10% forecast end 2012 Basel III pre this and 13% with phased=in deductions. This would fall to 9.8% and 12.4%, respectively, so still respectable and above CS (8.8% on look through Basel III end 2012) but obviously hardly a positive as its strong capital base relative was an attraction." But she added the real issue over and above the financial impact is the reflection on risk management at UBS: "UBS was seen to have recovered significantly from the credit crisis and to have improved its risk management in the investment bank in spite of its struggle to improve returns. This obviously brings this very much into question." Goldman Sachs analysts Jernei Omahen and Peter Skoog wrote in a note: "This loss has the scope to have a material impact on the perception of UBS' private bank, impacting its future operating trends. "Today's announcement therefore adds to the long list of arguments (and pressure) for a substantially smaller investment bank." Louise Cooper, markets analyst at BGC Partners, said: "According to Bloomberg analysts were forecasting about a SFR 7bn or approx £5bn pre tax profit for UBS for the 2011, therefore a £1.3bn trading loss hits full year earnings by about a third." She added: "The jewel in the crown of UBS is its private banking business, producing consistent, quality earnings. An unexpected trading loss could do significant reputational damage to the bank especially given its track record during the crisis (massive recapitalisation and regulatory fines). Rich people tend not to want to do business with a bank where there are questions over risk control. UBS needs to do a good job in explaining what went wrong and assuring its clients that it will not affect them." Joshua Raymond, chief market strategist at City Index, commented: "Whilst the incredible volatility seen recently in the markets would have likely seen some traders lose and win big, the news that a rogue trader was allowed to stack up losses of $2bn will inevitably send nervous shockwaves through to those investors who have only just returned to the bank after a severe loss of confidence. "The Swiss firm has fought hard in the last few years to restore its credibility from having to be bailed out by the Swiss authorities, suffering a large fine for tax evasion and after it agreed to disclose the accounts of thousands of its clients to US tax authorities."



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