M and A

Berenberg Sells Controlling Stake In Swiss Private Bank

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 19 September 2018

Berenberg Sells Controlling Stake In Swiss Private Bank

The venerable German firm has sold 80.1 per cent of its shares in the bank, keeping a minority stake.

One of the world’s oldest banks, Berenberg, is selling most of its stake in a Swiss private bank to a group of entrepreneurs and investors.

The shareholders include Swiss entrepreneurs Adrian and Andreas Keller, Michael Pieper, Dr Andreas Jacobs, as well as Claus-G Budelmann. When the transaction – financial terms of which were not disclosed – is complete, the business formerly known as Berenberg Bank (Schweiz), will be called Bergos Berenberg AG.

The group of investors will acquire 80.1 per cent of the bank, with Berenberg holding 19.9 per cent.

The Swiss firm has about 100 employees, serving Swiss, German and international clients in the wealth management space. It operates out of Geneva and Zurich.

“Especially in an environment of global universal banks, I see great potential for a small, client-focused Swiss private bank,” Michael Pieper, one of the shareholders and a member of the board of directors, said. He has been involved with the Swiss business for 25 years.

Dr Hans-Walter Peters, spokesman of the managing partners of Berenberg, added: “We intend to concentrate our resources on expanding our own core business areas, in which we shall continue the strong growth of recent years. This will be achieved by a reduction of administrative and regulatory complexity.”

The sale of the corporate shares is subject to approval by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, or FINMA. The parties agreed not to disclose the purchase price. Not affected by the sale are the Swiss investment banking and asset management activities that will continue as branches of Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co KG in Zurich and Geneva, the Berenberg statement said.

There have been a number of M&A deals affecting European private banks in recent years. Ray Soudah, founder of mergers/acquisitions advisory firm MilleniumAssociates, has argued that consolidation trends in Swiss and wider European banking will see a major player disappear at some point. 

Among recent deals, Geneva-based Eric Sturdza Group sold its holding in Banque Pâris Bertrand Sturzda, handing control to a Swiss holding company owned by the PBS management team, and sold a 40 per cent minority interest to Investcorp Europe. The firm was renamed Banque Pâris Bertrand SA. In July, two Swiss private banks owned by unlimited liability partners, Gonet & Cie and Mourgue d'Algue & Cie, said they were merging. The Geneva-based duo said that the combined businesses were to be led by Nicolas Gonet. The two partners of Mourgue d’Algue & Cie, Pierre-André and Swana Mourgue d’Algue, joined the entity’s senior management and continue to serve clients.

The total number of banks in Switzerland has contracted from over 300 a decade ago to just over 260 (source: Swiss Bankers Association) and a period of negative interest rates. Coupled with the demise of Swiss bank secrecy laws, and rising compliance costs, banks have had to find economies of scale.

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