UBS shares slide as bank issues cautious outlook despite earnings beat

  • The Swiss bank announced a net profit of 1.5 billion Swiss francs ($1.54 billion) for the first three months of the year, slightly above analysts' expectations.
  • Equity trading revenue rose 17 percent in the first quarter, boosted by market volatility.

UBS shares dropped about 4 percent on Monday morning despite reporting a 19 percent jump in net profit in the first quarter of the year.

The bank showed a somewhat cautious outlook going forward and some analysts were unhappy with the performance of certain divisions.

UBS warned that the second quarter of 2018 could include higher funding costs related to long-term debt and regulatory operations compared to the same period in 2017. It also cited geopolitical tensions and the rise of protectionism as threats to investor confidence.

Speaking to CNBC, UBS Group CEO Sergio Ermotti said the bank's outlook is "balanced" and it has a "realistic view of the world." He also said that UBS has proved that it is able to deliver good results in different market environments.

The move in the share price was also caused by a slow performance, if investment banking is excluded.

Gildas Surry, senior analyst at Axiom Alternative Investments, told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" that "if you remove the performance of equities and investment banking, is actually a miss."

"Wealth management in fact has been a bit slow... and also if you look at another headwind, which is regulations, they have front-loaded the cost of regulation... which is a bit of a hurdle for them in this quarter," Surry added.

Equities trading revenues up by 17 percent

    The Swiss bank announced a net profit of 1.5 billion Swiss francs ($1.54 billion) for the first three months of the year, slightly above analysts' expectations of 1.419 billion Swiss francs, and better than last year's 1.27 billion Swiss francs.

    Here are the key highlights:

    • Net profit: 1.5 billion Swiss francs ($1.54 billion) versus 1.2 billion Swiss francs in 2017
    • Revenues: 7.7 billion Swiss francs ($7.89 billion) versus 7.5 billion Swiss francs in 2017
    • Earnings per share: 0.39 Swiss francs ($0.40) vs. 0.33 Swiss francs in 2017

    Looking at the bank's investment banking division, equity trading revenues rose 17 percent in the first quarter and corporate client solutions revenues grew 15 percent. The market volatility seen since the start of the year has supported investment banking. On the other hand, fixed income, rates and credit revenues dropped 11 percent compared to a year ago.

    Sergio Ermotti, the UBS Group chief executive officer, told CNBC's Geoff Cutmore that he is "very pleased with the way the year has started."

    The signage for the U.K. headquarters of UBS.
    Oli Scarff | Getty Images
    The signage for the U.K. headquarters of UBS.

    When asked if he was concerned about market conditions shifting and affecting the performance of investment banking going into the second quarter, he said: "I still expect more of the same for 2018 that we saw in 2016 and 2017."

    "I do think that the second quarter, of course we are going to have some seasonality factor, but you know I really don't see things having changed a lot," Ermotti said.

    The Swiss bank also warned during its earnings report that the second quarter of 2018 could include higher funding costs related to long-term debt and regulatory operations compared to the same period in 2017.

    A 'psychological' element

    Speaking to CNBC, Ermotti also said that as the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield — a benchmark for global debt — gets closer to the 3 percent threshold, "there's an absolute but also a psychological element that will kick in."

    "People will assess their asset allocations and potentially look at bonds," he noted.

    The 10-year yield reached 2.96 percent Friday, hitting its highest level since January 10, 2014. Some market players are wary of the move between long and short-term rates as it can indicate how the economy might perform in coming years.

    The flattening of the yield curve, (every time the short-term yield comes closer to the longer-term yield) could be a problem for banks.

    "Of course this is not really good for banking, for banks in general and particularly for banks that have a meaningful part of their balance sheet in Swiss francs and euros," Ermotti said.