UBS profit surprises but warns of problems ahead

Transaction activity in wealth management is low: UBS CEO
Very little visibility about the future: UBS CEO
Europe's banks facing testing times: Barclays CEO

UBS, the Swiss bank, beat expectations Friday with a second-quarter net profit of 1.03 billion Swiss francs ($1.05 billion), higher than the 680 million Swiss francs forecast by analysts.

Sergio Ermotti, chief executive of the bank, warned CNBC: "There is very little visibility about the future on every front, both macro and geopolitical. I don't see any relief in the foreseeable future."

The Swiss lender said that volatility, uncertainty and geopolitical tensions were causing client "risk aversion" and depressing transaction volume, and that this was unlikely to change soon - echoing the other major European banks which have reported earnings this week. Profits are being dented by low or negative interest rates, and wealthy clients cutting their number of transactions as they are unwilling to take risks in choppy markets.

"We are not really pushing clients to execute trades because their risk aversion is so high," Ermotti told CNBC.

The bank's profits were down from 1.2 billion Swiss francs in the same period in 2015, when market conditions were much more favorable.

UBS's Swiss rival Credit Suisse reported a surprise profit for the second quarter of 2016 on Thursday.

Chris Hondros I Getty Images

Meanwhile, UBS may be on the verge of a rescue attempt for Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the struggling Italian bank. Italy's third-biggest lender, said in a statement on Thursday that it has received a last-minute rescue proposal from UBS, within hours of an expected bailout.

Monte dei Paschi di Siena, like many Italian banks, has been struggling with a high level of non-performing loans (NPLs) or bad debts.

Ermotti declined to comment on the potential deal but pointed reporters to the statement.

He confirmed that increased trading activity around the Brexit referendum had helped boost the bank's foreign exchange trading division.

One of the biggest questions around Brexit is whether the U.K.'s financial service industry will be able to continue at current levels. Ermotti said "we are flexible and ready to respond once the rules are determined" but added that there are plenty of places UBS could move business in Europe if the U.K. loses its important "passporting" rights for trading in Europe as part of its exit from the European Union.

Related Tags