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Profits Slid At EFG In 2009, But Bank Gives Upbeat Outlook, To Expand Swiss Business

Tom Burroughes

17 March 2010

EFG International, the Swiss private banking group, said it made a net profit of SFr101.1 million (around $96 million) in 2009, a drop of 54 per cent from the previous year, but recovered from a weak first half of last year.

The bank said it intended to significantly expand its business operations in Switzerland and other parts of the world although as EFG pointed out, it has also shut offices in areas to cut costs while adding to its presence in selected locations.

Assets under management rose by 14 per cent to SFr87.7 billion at 31 December last year, while total clients assets under management and administration stood at SFr97.1 billion at the end of last year.

EFG logged net new assets of SFr8.7 billion, up 12.4 per cent.

“In the near term, the focus remains on organic growth, not acquisitions. Costs will continue to be carefully managed, but the business remains committed to hiring high quality CROs who are capable of being profitable in relatively short order. It will also continue to extend selectively its representation, subject to finding the right people,” it said in a statement.

“As business conditions return to a more normal state, and given the strength of private banking net new money, EFG International remains confident that it can achieve its historic average growth in clients’ Assets under Management per CRO of SFr30 million,” the bank continued.

“Business levels have progressively improved and present trends are positive,” the bank said.

EFG said it has embarked on a cost-reduction programme, starting early last year. On a pro forma basis, EFG International realised cost savings of close to SFr40 million last year and savings are expected to exceed SFr50 million for 2010, it said.

As part of these cost cuts, EFG has shut a number of offices – although it has also opened in areas it considers to be strategically important. Offices have been closed in Bahrain; Buenos Aires; Mexico City; Victoria, Canada; and the Valais, Switzerland (Crans-Montana, Martigny and Verbier).

The bank is also closing operations (subject to regulatory approval) in Caracas; Panama; and Malmö, Sweden. On the other hand, it has added to its presence with new offices in Abu Dhabi; Bangalore; Key Biscayne, Florida; and Ottawa. In the early stages of 2010, it opened in Shanghai, is in the process of opening in Denmark, and is applying to establish a presence in Uruguay. In France, the business obtained a banking licence.

“While 2009 started very slowly, particularly in the first four months, business conditions improved as the year progressed. Clients gradually became less cautious, albeit activity levels remained below pre-financial crisis levels, with an inevitable impact on performance,” the bank said.

“However, performance improved significantly in the second half of the year compared to the first half, with operating income and net profit up 8 per cent and 305 per cent respectively. The underlying capacity for growth of the private banking business remains intact, as evidenced by another year of double digit net new money growth,” it said.

The bank had a Tier 1 Capital ratio at the end of last year of 13.7 per cent, up from 12.5 per cent at the end of 2008.