Credit Suisse Flags More Investment Bank Cuts

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Credit Suisse (CS) is to make more cuts at its investment bank, which helped the Swiss group to produce stronger-than-expected earnings in the third quarter.

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The bank has already scaled back its investment banking division, mainly in fixed income, to try to balance it more evenly with its private banking arm, which caters to the financial needs of the wealthy.

Credit Suisse told investors to expect several potential large "structural reductions," following the earlier cuts that included parts of its bond-trading division and commodities.

Finance chief David Mathers did not say where the latest cuts would be made. "I don't think I'm going to be specific."

Credit Suisse appointed two new investment banking bosses last week and promoted them to its top ranks in a managerial shake-up, which Chief Executive Brady Dougan has said would not change the strategy or way of approaching the business.

The bank aims to have businesses in its investment bank with top-three market positions that can earn a healthy return on capital, and in the past has chosen to exit or scale-back in many of the areas which did not meet the criteria, such as commodities.

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In its results' presentation on Thursday, the parts of the investment bank that also did not fit those criteria included interest rate products and foreign exchange.

But the bank said it was too early to pinpoint where further cutbacks might take place.

The investment bank's third-quarter pretax profit surged 43 percent, benefiting from exits from costlier, less lucrative activities and as fixed-income trading snapped back from last year, when it was hit by uncertainty over the U.S. Federal Reserve's bond buying.

In contrast, the private bank's results disappointed.

"The surprise came mainly from the investment bank, while wealth management disappointed," Kepler Capital Markets Dirk Becker, who rates the stock a "hold" with a 25.50 franc target price.

Credit Suisse's private bank pulled in 7.4 billion francs in net new assets, a key indicator for future revenue. This translates to growth on existing assets of less than 3 percent, well below a 6 percent long-term target.

The bank said the private bank would continue to leak assets, because clients, especially in Europe, are under pressure to come clean and close out Swiss accounts.

The bank also suffered a withdrawal in Switzerland of 1.1 billion francs from a single client.

"Overall, we still see Credit Suisse as being very dependent on a good performance from the investment bank," Bank Vontobel analyst Andreas Venditti said. He rates it "hold" with a 28 franc target.

LUKEWARM OUTLOOK

The investment bank took up just over 60 percent of Credit Suisse's risk weighted assets, based on the third-quarter results, a slight reduction on the same period last year, with the remainder with its private bank.

"We have seen a mixed start to October, with recent market volatility benefiting certain businesses across both divisions, while negatively impacting others," CEO Dougan said.

Credit Suisse's securities business within its investment bank was buoyed in the third quarter by Alibaba's multi-billion dollar listing, where investment banks, including Credit Suisse, shared $300 million in fees.

"We have a strong advisory and underwriting pipeline but the pace of execution in the fourth quarter will depend on market conditions," Dougan said.

The bank's results follow a strong performance from some U.S. rivals, including Goldman Sachs.

For the group as a whole, net profit jumped to 1.025 billion francs in the third quarter, surpassing the average forecast of 810 million francs in a Reuters poll and versus 454 million in the third quarter last year.

Credit Suisse has bolstered a major capital ratio to 9.8 percent, within striking distance of a 10 percent target by year-end.

A gain of 351 million francs on the value of its own debt, which the bank previously disclosed, smoothed the result.

Credit Suisse shares fell 1.3 percent by 1203 GMT, lagging the European banking sector, which was up 0.1 percent.

Cross-town rival UBS, Deutsche Bank and Barclays all report next week.

(1 US dollar = 0.9528 Swiss franc) 

(Reporting by Katharina Bart and Joshua Franklin.; Additional reportnig by Albert Schmieder; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Jane Merriman)