Investment bank environment still very fragile says UBS

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ZURICH (Reuters) – Investment banking conditions have improved over recent months but remains “very fragile,” UBS Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti said on Thursday, adding the Swiss lender’s own business was performing in line with the industry.

“In March we started to see a normalization of the environment. If I look at March, April and May the situation has clearly stabilized and improved, although from a very low base,” Ermotti said at the Goldman Sachs European Financials Conference in Paris. “The situation is still very fragile.”

UBS in April reported that earnings at its investment bank slipped 64 percent on an adjusted basis during the first quarter, as Switzerland’s biggest bank brought in less money from both its corporate advisory and equities business.

Ermotti on Thursday highlighted particularly tough market conditions in Europe and Asia, key areas for the lender’s investment banking business.

“The performance in Q2 and Q1 of our investment bank was not dissimilar to the rest of the industry,” Ermotti said, adding that the unit’s new co-heads, appointed to lead the business after long-time boss Andrea Orcel quit the bank in September, were leading the business successfully.

“I think Rob Karofsky and Piero Novelli are doing a fantastic job,” he said of the co-heads. “People understand that [the recent performance] has nothing to do with management changes. It has to do with the environment.”

Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, editing by John Revill

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