UBS shares up 3% after first quarter profit soars

Political risk, seasonality play into UBS CEO's caution

UBS said on Friday net profit rose 79 percent in the first-quarter of this year boosted by its investment bank business and cost-reduction program.

  • Net Profit: 1.3 billion Swiss francs ($1.3 billion) versus a 919 million average in a Reuters poll.

The largest bank in Switzerland beat analysts' expectations reporting a net profit of 1.3 billion Swiss francs ($1.3 billion), up from 707 million francs a year earlier. However, the bank cautioned geopolitical and macroeconomic concerns are affecting global markets.

"The geopolitical and macroeconomic issues that we've been facing in the last 3, 4 years are still there and are still posing a lot of risks to client activity and client sentiment," Sergio Ermotti, chief executive officer of UBS, told CNBC.

He added that first-quarter results showed that "all business divisions, all geographies have been contributing to this positive developments on a year-on-year basis."

All geographies contributing to positive results: UBS CEO

"We have seen some confidence by clients although it is still uneven, if you look at private clients and wealth management clients have been a little bit more constructive, while if you look at institutional investors they've been clearly affected by the global activity in financial markets," Ermotti said, explaining that "there's a difference between client confidence and then their willingness to translate confidence into actions."

The company's stock rose 3 percent in midday trading on Friday.

At its global wealth management arm adjusted profit before tax rose 19 percent to 1.1 billion Swiss francs. And it reported adjusted profit before tax at its investment banking division climbed 51 percent to 558 million Swiss francs.

According to Ermotti, one of the factors affecting client participation is the uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration.

"In general, people are waiting to see what the new administration is really going to deliver. They are really positive and willing to consider investment in financial markets and in their own business but they want to see concrete action," he said.

French election

Don't be complacent about a Macron win: UBS CEO

Speaking to CNBC, Ermotti said that a Macron win in the French election cannot be taken for granted, but if the centrist does become the next President of France, his big test will be putting together a government that will reform the country.

"At the end of the day, the proof, if he wins, we shouldn't be too complacent about this issue, it is his ability to put together a government that can push through reforms that France needs and Europe needs. France has a lot of work to do," Ermotti said."

One of the main areas that investors would like France to reform is the labor market, which is currently seen as too rigid.