UBS's biggest investor attacks bank's lapses

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The Independent Online

UBS's biggest shareholder heaped pressure on the Swiss bank yesterday by criticising it publicly over the £1.5bn loss inflicted by an alleged rogue trader.

After meeting UBS's chief executive, Oswald Grübel, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund issued a rare public statement taking issue with the bank's failures and calling on it to take decisive action.

GIC, which owns 6.44 per cent of UBS, said: "[We] discussed the alleged fraudulent trading that led to the large financial loss for UBS. GIC expressed disappointment and concern at the lapses and urged UBS to take firm action to restore confidence in the bank."

GIC added that it had demanded details of how risk controls would be strengthened.

Mr Grübel is in Singapore for a strategy board meeting where the bank's directors will discuss the implications of the alleged fraud and the fate of UBS's troubled investment bank.

The quarterly meeting, which brings together UBS's management and supervisory boards, is said to have been scheduled to take place in Singapore tomorrow and Friday since before the trading loss was discovered last week.

GIC is sitting on a loss of about $8.5bn (£5.4bn), excluding dividends, on the UBS stake it bought in December 2007 for $11bn. The fund, which manages about $250bn, said in January it would keep its stake for many years to come. It did not mention its intentions concerning the UBS investment in yesterday's statement.

"GIC's view of UBS's fundamental strength as a well-capitalised bank with a strong private-wealth management franchise remains unchanged," the fund said.

UBS declined to comment on GIC's statement or a report due for publication in today's edition of the Swiss magazine Bilan that says Mr Grübel has been asked to leave the bank. Bilan claims Mr Grübel's successor is being discussed at board level.

UBS is due to announce an overhaul of its investment bank on 17 November. The date was set before the loss was discovered but has now taken on greater urgency.

The investment bank lost $50bn during the financial crisis.