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Julius Baer could afford bank with assets of up to US$15b: CEO

[ZURICH] Julius Baer could afford to buy a bank with assets under management of up to 15 billion Swiss francs (S$20.61 billion) without tapping the market for additional cash, chief executive Boris Collardi said on Monday.

Baer, Switzerland's third-biggest private bank, has in the past used acquisitions to keep pace with much larger rivals UBS and Credit Suisse.

In an interview with Reuters, Mr Collardi stressed any deal would be very price sensitive.

"We have seen all types of prices in the market," he said. "We have seen 0.5 per cent (of assets under management), we have seen 1 per cent. Anything we have seen above that we think it's too expensive anyway - 1.5, 2 per cent, that's way off."

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Mr Collardi was speaking after Zurich-based Baer posted first-half earnings ahead of analyst expectations.

He also left the door open to further cost-cutting measures later this year.

At a time of increased regulatory costs, negative interest rates and restrained client activity all banks are under pressure to lower budgets.

"The chance is there," Mr Collardi said, when asked whether it was possible Baer could flesh out existing cost cuts.

Mr Collardi also expected the bank's new regional structure, which was announced last week, to help keep a lid on costs.

"I have very high expectations... in synergies that we should be able to achieve in the front office," he said, without specifying what the value of those synergies could be.