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UBS Says Eyes Takeovers in New U.S. Growth Push

UBS is preparing a new growth initiative in the United States that may include acquisitions as it seeks to bolster its investment banking and wealth management business, the Swiss group's chairman said on Sunday.

Marcel Ospel, whose tenure was extended by at least another three years last week after the shock departure of UBS Chief Executive Peter Wuffli, ruled out splitting the group into its two main components, investment banking and wealth management.

"Our aspirations in the USA are indeed higher than our current position. That requires additional investment," Ospel said in an interview in the SonntagsZeitung published on Sunday.

"We are launching a new growth initiative for this market," Ospel said. The group's new CEO Marcel Rohner would lead the turnaround in the U.S., with the goal of strengthening the group's position among the top five in investment banking.

Ospel said acquisitions in the U.S. market were more likely to be in the wealth management field than in investment banking.

"Sensible acquisitions always interest us. If they correspond to our strategic, economic and cultural conditions, in most likelihood we will act on it," he said, pointing to the group's recent takeovers of Piper Jaffray and McDonalds

When asked whether it was an option to split UBS up into separate companies -- an investment bank and a wealth manager -- Ospel replied, "No. We are producing considerable synergies with our business model."

Analysts have been on the lookout for any sign of a change in course following Wuffli's unexpected departure.

UBS says Wuffli had resigned after a board meeting rejected a proposal from Ospel that Wuffli should succeed him as chairman.

The sudden change, announced late on Thursday, followed calls from critics for UBS to boost performance and even consider breaking up the bank -- by getting out of investment banking and focusing wholly on wealth and investment management.

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