UBS profits up 44% as Warburg stages dramatic turnaround

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PROFITS AT UBS, the Swiss banking giant, rose 44 per cent to 5bn Swiss francs (pounds 2.27bn) before tax and exceptionals in the first nine months of the year as a result of a dramatic rebound at Warburg Dillon Read, UBS's City investment banking arm.

WDR has moved from a loss of SFr1.2bn last year when it took a hit on its investment in Long-Term Capital Management, the US hedge fund, to a profit before tax of SFr2bn.

The strong result, reflecting buoyant financial markets and a pick-up in the advisory business, made Warburg the biggest single contributor to group profits this year. This fact will be seized on by the bank, which is seeking to quash doubts about its commitment to WDR.

Last week Marcel Ospel, the chairman, dismissed talk that Warburg was up for sale, arguing that it was an integral part of the broader bank. His remarks were seen as an attempt to reassure staff.

Salomon Smith Barney, the US investment bank, and Chase, the American banking giant, are believed to have expressed interest in taking over Warburg, if UBS were willing to sell.

Warburg has scored a number of successes this year. It advised Sprint, the US telecoms giant, in its $129bn bid for rival MCI and is advising Vodafone in its pounds 76bn hostile bid for Mannesmann, the German telecoms giant. But assets under management were down overall in the third quarter reflecting a weaker investment performance and net outflows. This was more marked in the US. In London, where UBS operates as Philips & Drew, investment performance improved.