UBS sounds cautious note for year ahead after booking quarterly profit rise

UBS Group AG predicted an “uncertain” year ahead plagued by accelerating inflation and higher interest rates on Tuesday after the Swiss bank beat estimates in its latest quarter.

The world’s largest wealth manager kicked off a round of reporting for major European banks, many of which have been cutting jobs and costs in light of waning economic growth.

In doing so, UBS cautioned that inflation, rising interest rates and war in Ukraine were clouding the future, dampening clients’ mood. It warned that lower asset prices and weaker confidence among customers could affect its business, although it would also benefit from higher interest rates.

For the quarter just ended, the Swiss bank reported a 23% rise in net profit attributable to shareholders of $1.7 billion, helped by a fall in costs despite a drop in financial markets. That compared with the $1.3 billion average of 21 analyst estimates in a UBS-conducted poll.

“We are starting 2023 from a position of strength,” Chief Executive Ralph Hamers said in a statement.

Full-year net profit reached $7.6 billion, compared with the consensus estimate of $7.3 billion.

Crosstown rival Credit Suisse Group AG will report on Feb. 9 having flagged a quarterly pre-tax loss of as much as 1.5 billion francs ($1.63 billion) following hefty withdrawals by wealthy clients after a string of scandals and losses.

UBS Chairman Colm Kelleher has said his bank has not actively sought to benefit from Credit Suisse’s troubles.

UBS announced plans to buy back more than $5 billion worth of shares this year after repurchasing $5.5 billion in 2022.

It has also proposed a dividend hike to $0.55 per share for last year from $0.51 for 2021.

UBS said it attracted $23.3 billion in net new fee generating assets in wealth management, with strong performance in Switzerland.

The bank’s home turf saw net new deposits of $8 billion in the fourth quarter from corporate clients and global wealth management, compared with $9 billion for the full year.

“While the macroeconomic outlook remains uncertain, our operational resilience, capital strength and capital generation put us in a great position to serve our clients, fund growth and deliver strong capital returns to shareholders,” Hamers said.

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