Swiss bank UBS sees third-quarter net profit plunge 60 percent year-on-year

Swiss bank UBS has posted a 60 percent year-on-year slump in third-quarter net profit, saying macroeconomic, geopolitical and market challenges weighed on performance.

The 827 million Swiss franc ($832 million) net income result also fell far short of analyst consensus expectations of 945 million Swiss francs. Last year's third-quarter result included a one-off net tax benefit of 1.3 billion Swiss francs.

Switzerland's largest lender by assets under management pointed to higher than expected regulatory costs and subdued primary market issuance as two specific factors biting into results.

UBS also warned that it expects the difficult climate to persist, anticipating customers will remain risk averse with transaction volumes remaining weak. The bank also drew attention to the headwind of negative interest rates in its home country of Switzerland, where the deposit rate is currently -0.75 percent.

Adjusted pre-tax profit showed a more positive result, posting a 33 percent year-on-year jump, while reported pre-tax profit also rose 11 percent.

Speaking to CNBC, Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti said he was pleased with the business and that he believed UBS has "a strong position both strategically and as a business."

This despite his admission that the bank's orientation may not be optimal in today's environment.

"Our geography mix and our business mix (are) more skewed to Europe and Asia is clearly not favored by the current environment," he conceded.

Wealth management inflows within the bank's target and higher than last quarter were a bright spot in the results with Ermotti saying the quality of net new money remained strong.

"We haven't really compromised on quality for a long-time now," he added.

The surprising outperformance achieved in the third quarter by some peers was largely due to trading revenue generated on the fixed-income side, not an area of especial strength at UBS. Ermotti said the bank was not looking to beef up its operations in this pocket of the trade floor, even if a future sustained rise in volatility created yet more optimal conditions for that type of business.

Although the CEO pointed out that a 3.5 percent net new business growth rate was ahead of that of the national economy, he noted the headwinds from negative rates were growing, as evidenced by the six basis point decline in Swiss margins.

Although claiming to be "very happy" with this quarter's results, Ermotti painted a cautious note on the outlook for the bank, saying "of course it is going to be very challenging to repeat the same kind of performance."

Asked explicitly by CNBC whether the operating environment would become tougher, UBS' CEO responded with an unambiguous "yes".

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