Derivatives boom lifts SBC by 36%: Good London performance helps to offset provisions against bad debts

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The Independent Online
SWISS Bank Corporation enjoyed a 36 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to Sfr1.365bn ( pounds 637m) for 1993 thanks to a big increase in derivatives earnings as well as a highly successful year in London.

A spokeswoman for SBC denied earlier reports that the bank had made pounds 600m in London last year, which would have made it the most profitable City investment banking operation.

'That figure is not right. But we had a very good year,' she said.

The better-than-expected overall results were held back by a 44 per cent rise in provisions against bad debts to Sfr2.77bn.

In 1992 the bank raised provisions by 27 per cent. SBC has been recovering from a number of large loan defaults in recent years, and analysts said the increase in provisions showed that its new chief executive, Georges Blum, wanted to start with a clean slate.

Mr Blum, who took over from Walter Frehner in April 1993, had obviously decided to clear away any questionable loans, they added.

Derek Bullman, an analyst with James Capel, said: 'These are very good results. Trading has done brilliantly. They have done very well in derivatives, bonds and equities.'

Mr Bullen said that if exceptional items were stripped out of last year's results, the pre-tax profit figure actually rose by 80 per cent.

'On a group-wide basis the bank succeeded in strengthening its operating earning power substantially,' said SBC, adding that operating income was boosted by robust earnings from trading and commissions.

The bank's spokeswoman said most of the provisions were against sour loans in Switzerland, although a significant portion were made against the derivatives business of O'Connor Associates, the Chicago subsidiary.

Since the Chicago venture began in early 1990, SBC has become a worldwide leader in derivatives, with a continous flow of warrants and options in almost everything from Australian mining shares to Latin American telecommunications shares.

SBC said it would raise its dividend on bearer shares to Sfr16 a share from Sfr14 in 1992. It will also raise the dividend on registered shares to Sfr8 from Sfr7.

SBC also proposes to create Sfr150m of conditional capital for convertible bonds and bonds with warrants.

The spokeswoman confirmed that SBC had taken provisions in both the first and second halves of the year, but declined to specify how large the payment to O'Connor had been.