Monday, July 4, 2022

Ukraine war pushes Credit Suisse deeper into red

It plunged by 42% overall year-on-year to 4.4 billion francs, dragged down by a 51% drop in revenues in its investment bank and a 44% fall in its wealth management business.

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Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse said Wednesday that litigation costs and the financial fallout from the war in Ukraine pushed it deeper into the red in the first three months of the year.

Credit Suisse, which later this week is due to face angry shareholders following a string of scandals and crises, posted a worse-than-expected net loss of 273 million Swiss francs (US$282 million, 267 million euros).

That was wider than the 252-million-franc net loss posted a year earlier, and also worse than analyst expectations, which had already been lowered after the bank warned last week it would take a financial hit from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It calculated that the losses related to the war amounted to 206 million Swiss francs in the period from January to March.

In addition, Credit Suisse said its operating expenses were higher year-on-year, driven in particular by higher litigation expenses of 703 million francs.

The bank also saw its revenue for the quarter contract more than expected.

It plunged by 42% overall year-on-year to 4.4 billion francs, dragged down by a 51% drop in revenues in its investment bank and a 44% fall in its wealth management business.


“The first quarter of 2022 has been marked by volatile market conditions and client risk aversion,” Credit Suisse chief Thomas Gottstein said in a statement.

“These conditions, together with the impact from our reduction in risk appetite in 2021 as we took decisive actions to strengthen our overall risk and controls foundation, had an adverse impact on our net revenues,” he explained.

Credit Suisse has been striving to rein in risks after taking a series of hits.

It was rocked in 2021 following the implosions of financial services firms Greensill and Archegos, which cost the bank billions.

Last November, Credit Suisse launched a three-year reorganisation plan that dramatically pares back its investment bank activities and refocuses on wealth management.

But not long after that, the bank’s chairman of just nine months, Antonio Horta-Osorio, who had been championing the efforts to improve risk management, resigned for having breached Swiss Covid rules.

Swiss media had speculated that a broader management shakeup was in the works.

And on Wednesday, Credit Suisse did announce several changes, including the planned departure of its chief financial officer for the past 12 years, David Mathers.

Looking ahead, Credit Suisse warned Wednesday that “the combination of the current geopolitical situation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the significant monetary tightening initiated by several of the major central banks in response to inflation concerns have resulted in heightened volatility and client risk aversion.”

‘Transition year’

Despite the challenges, Gottstein voiced hope the situation would turn around.

“2022 is a transition year,” he told a conference call.

“We continue to forecast a net profit for the full year 2022 despite the loss in the first quarter.”

Analysts and investors were less upbeat.

Following the news, Credit Suisse saw its share price slip 0.3% in late afternoon trading to 6.57 francs a piece, as the Swiss stock exchange’s main SMI index rose 0.9%.

The Jefferies analyst firm meanwhile said that after last week’s profit warning, the bank’s results Wednesday provided “another negative surprise.”

Even when disregarding extraordinary events and circumstances, it warned in a note that “the picture remains concerning” for Credit Suisse, especially in comparison to strong results posted by its peers.

The bank’s top domestic rival UBS for instance on Tuesday posted a better-than-expected net profit for the first quarter of US$2.1 billion, up 17% year-on-year.

And Credit Suisse’s disappointing earnings are not the end of its woes.

The bank is due to host its general assembly later this week, and can expect several groups of shareholders to voice their disapproval.

Two large US proxy advisory services companies, ISS and Glass Lewis, have recommended that their members once again vote against the compensation proposed for Credit Suisse management for 2020.

The Ethos foundation, which represents pension funds, has gone even further and called for shareholders to reject more than a third of the items on the agenda.

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