The Business Times

Credit Suisse is not for sale, chairman says

Published Tue, Nov 1, 2022 · 08:20 AM

ANY bargain hunters hoping to snap up Credit Suisse Group now that the lender’s revamp has pushed its stock down yet again may find themselves getting short shrift in Zurich.

“We are going to thrive again, so we don’t have any takeover discussions,” Credit Suisse chairman Axel Lehmann said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Hong Kong on Monday (Oct 31). “We want to stay independent.”

With its share price slumping by more than half this year, the 166-year-old institution has been vulnerable to rumours of takeover bids and concerns over its stability. Lehmann said the 4 billion Swiss franc (S$5.7 billion) capital increase would make the lender “rock solid”, helping it to carry out a vital restructuring that radically downsizes the loss-making investment bank and shrinks its trading operations.

“Going forward, Credit Suisse is really a wealth management-centric franchise, centred around entrepreneurs, wealthy clients,” said Lehmann, adding the bank plans to push ahead with growth efforts in key Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Middle East markets. “We are a wealth manager, and asset management goes alongside.”

The executive said he’s “highly confident” that Credit Suisse can secure an agreement over the next week in relation to the sale of the majority of a securitised-products trading business to a group led by private equity firm Apollo Global Management. The bank plans to retain a stream of revenues from the business, Lehmann said.

On Monday, the bank detailed plans to raise capital through a rights issue and selling shares to investors including Saudi National Bank, which is set to become one of the lender’s top shareholders. To assist with the process, the company announced an enlarged syndicate of banks that includes Wall Street names such as Goldman Sachs Group, European lenders such as BNP Paribas and Barclays as well as firms in Asia.


Start and end each day with the latest news stories and analyses delivered straight to your inbox.


Approximately 1.8 billion Swiss francs has been committed by several anchor investors, while the rest of the rights issue is fully underwritten, Lehmann said.

Lehmann, 63, is a Swiss insider who spent almost two decades at Zurich Insurance before a stint at UBS Group. Since joining the Credit Suisse board of directors in late 2021, he has brought a more modest style to tackling the bank’s difficulties. He took the role of chairman in January, pledging to dispense with “grandiose announcements and promises”, in favour of “humility and consistent execution”.

Credit Suisse’s strategy revamp last month was the second within a year, after the previous management duo of Antonio Horta-Osorio and Thomas Gottstein failed to stem losses and convince investors that the bank was on the right track.

Following the capital increase announcement, Lehmann himself has bought some US$1 million worth of shares to display confidence in the bank’s strategy, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

Credit Suisse is also starting initial headcount reductions of 2,700 positions in the fourth quarter, and will ultimately slash the workforce by some 17 per cent, or approximately 9,000 roles. Lehmann declined to elaborate on which regions would be most affected by the job cuts.

Lehmann sidestepped a question on whether accepting investment from the Saudi Arabian lender, which is 37 per cent owned by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, would draw the ire of the US and Swiss governments over its human rights track record.

“We are very happy that we have an investor like the Saudi National Bank. It’s a private institution, and I think this is also a region that is growing,” he said. Lehmann was also bullish on the growth prospects for the Asia-Pacific region, and pushed back at any suggestion the lender is considering dialling down its commitment to China given the nation’s growth slump and geopolitical concerns.

Wealth inflows

“I think the region really has inherent growth,” Lehmann said, adding that the firm monitors geopolitical tensions carefully. “Hong Kong will continue to play a pre-eminent role as a global financial centre - we are and we will stay committed to that.”

Deutsche Bank chief executive officer Christian Sewing warned in a speech in September that the rising tensions between China and the US have created a considerable risk for Germany. He urged German companies to reduce their dependency on China but warned the move will require “a change no less fundamental than decoupling from Russian energy”.

The bank’s wealth-management arm has now stabilised after what Lehmann called a “social-media storm” prompted some investors to pull cash from the bank. “I would anticipate that we will have further inflows in the weeks and months to come,” he said. “We have a lot of clients that told us they would come back.” BLOOMBERG


BT is now on Telegram!

For daily updates on weekdays and specially selected content for the weekend. Subscribe to

Banking & Finance


Get the latest coverage and full access to all BT premium content.


Browse corporate subscription here