Investment banking helps Credit Suisse profits rise 70%

A good performance from investment banking helped Switzerland's largest bank, Credit Suisse, to a 70 per cent increase in first-half profits. Credit Suisse First Boston contributed almost two-thirds of the group's interim profit of 1.4bn Swiss francs (pounds 580m), despite a sharp rise in staff costs.

Credit Suisse highlighted CSFB's "outstanding" performance, which it said had benefited from strong economic and market conditions in most countries, including the emerging markets. The bank said revenues and profits were growing faster than most of its competitors."

CSFB contributed net profits of SFr885m, 62 per cent of the total and a 51 per cent increase on the first half of 1996. The rise came despite a 40 per cent rise in expenses. John Leonard, an analyst at Salomon Brothers, warned: "Although cost increases were well covered by revenue growth in the first half, an awful lot of revenue growth just went straight into cost."

CSFB produced a return on equity of 18.6 per cent, below the 25 per cent reported recently by SBC Warburg, the London-based investment bank owned by rival Swiss Bank Corporation. Credit Suisse said its underlying return, stripping out CSFB's money markets and lending operations, was a more respectable 26 per cent.

Elsewhere, CS Private Banking made SFr676m, up 30 per cent, while CS Asset Management chipped in SFr98m. Credit Suisse's domestic operations struggled, in line with its competitors, losing SFr150m.

Credit Suisse is in the middle of a pounds 5.8bn takeover of Swiss insurance group Winterthur, with shareholders due to vote on the deal on 5 September.

The deal will produce one of the world's leading bancassurance groups.