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UBS settles US mortgage lawsuit, posts soaring profit

July 23, 2013 at 2:05 am | News Desk

UBS settles US mortgage lawsuit, posts soaring profit ZURICH: Swiss banking giant UBS said Monday it had settled a lawsuit linked to US subprime housing mortgages which sparked the 2008 global financial crisis.

The bank did not specify how much the settlement amounted to, but said it had set aside 865 million Swiss francs ($922 million, 700 million euros) in the second quarter to meet litigation costs including the case.

“The full cost of the settlement is covered by litigation provisions established by UBS during the second quarter of 2013 and in prior periods,” Switzerland’s biggest bank said in a statement.

UBS and 17 other financial institutions were sued by the US Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) in September 2011 for violating federal securities laws when selling residential mortgage-backed securities to government-backed lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The agency accused the 18 firms of misleading Fannie and Freddie about the credit-worthiness of the assets.

This contributed to the implosion of the US housing market and the subsequent tanking of the multitrillion-dollar mortgage-backed securities market.

UBS said it had reached an agreement “in principle” with FHFA that still needed a final go-ahead from the different parties and that would settle claims connected to the securities between 2004 and 2007.

Alongside the announcement, the bank gave a first hint of what to expect from its second quarter results, set to be published on July 30, saying it would post a net profit of around 690 million francs for the three months ending June.

That is a jump of 62.5 percent from a year ago and a stark improvement over the first quarter, when net profit slid 4.5 percent. In the fourth quarter of 2012, UBS posted a loss of 1.9 billion francs.

The bank said its operating profit before tax would reach about 1.02 billion francs, an increase of 7.3 percent over the second quarter in 2012.

The bank attributed its better-than-expected results to the “significant progress in the execution of its strategy”.

Since Sergio Ermotti took over the helm of the bank in late 2011 it has undergone a major reshuffling, shifting its focus to wealth management and dramatically restructuring its scandal-plagued investment bank.

The investment bank burdened UBS with catastrophic losses during the 2008 subprime crisis and more recently dragged the bank’s name through the mud when it came to light that its traders had rigged the Libor Interbank lending rate that determines numerous financial and interest rate contracts around the world.

Analysts on Monday hailed UBS’s results, which beat expectations, and the settlement of the mortgage securities suit.

“Another closed litigation is a positive,” said Rainer Skierka, an analyst with the Bank J. Safra Sarasin, stressing in a research note that “we confirm our buy rating”.

Panagiotis Spiliopoulos of Vontobel meanwhile said the shifting focus to wealth management was on track, predicted this could lead to “juicy dividend payouts in the years to come”.

That would be a welcome change: Following the subprime debacle, UBS halted all dividend payments for a full three years, while the payments of just 0.10 Swiss francs in 2011 and of 0.15 francs last year were seen as largely symbolic.

After Monday’s announcements, the bank’s stocks jumped 2.8 percent to 18.10 francs in late afternoon trading, outperforming the Swiss stock exchange’s main index, which gained just 0.07 percent.


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