UBS pays £160m for Laing & Cruickshank

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UBS, Europe's largest investment bank, yesterday beefed up its offering to well-heeled private clients by swallowing 122-year-old Laing & Cruickshank for £160m. The deal will provide windfalls for its 50 partners, who between them own 31.5 per cent of the British business.

The deal, which has been rumoured for some weeks, is likely to mark the end of another well-established City name. UBS, which is folding Laing & Cruickshank into its existing UK business, is likely to fade out the name.

However, Michael Kerr-Dineen, the colourful merchant banker who is chief executive of Laing & Cruickshank, said the fit with UBS was "perfect". He said: "They have the same heritage and culture when it comes to servicing private clients."

The deal will double the £5bn of assets UBS has under management in its UK division. It will also bring together two businesses that cater for the very top end of the banking market, with investors who typically have more than £5m to invest. Laing & Cruickshank, which was bought from France's Credit Agricole, has 246 employees in cities including London, Birmingham and Newcastle.

Since 2001, UBS has been increasing its private banking business in the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and France as it targets new customers. UBS's onshore businesses in those countries had Sfr46bn (£29bn) in assets at the end of December, up 64 per cent from the same period a year earlier.

UBS announced the acquisition as it unveiled its best quarterly profit in more than three years and said it would pay a record dividend as improved markets and cost cuts helped it beat even the most optimistic market expectations. Net profits in the fourth quarter rose to Sfr1.86bn, up 11 per cent on the third quarter, bringing 2003 net profit to Swfr6.39bn - its second best yearly result to date.