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UBS posts 2018 profit jump but misses estimates as its wealth unit struggles

UBS CEO: Our asset management business outperformed industry

Swiss bank UBS reported a jump in full-year profits on Tuesday, but missed analyst estimates as it noted outflows from its wealth management division.

The bank's net profit attributable to shareholders for 2018 came in at $4.897 billion, as compared to its 2017 figure of $969 million when a U.S. tax reforms dampened results. Five analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a net profit of $4.906 billion for 2018.

"We have seen sine normalization in markets early in 2019, we will stay focused on balancing efficiency and investments for growth, in order to keep delivering our capital return objectives while creating sustainable long-term value for shareholders," Sergio Ermotti, UBS chief executive officer, said in a statement Tuesday.

UBS also announced it was aiming to purchase $1 billion of its shares in 2019, above the 2018 amount of $751 million.

The Swiss bank reported nearly $8 billion in wealth management outflows during the fourth quarter, and said lower invested assets will affect recurring revenues in that division.

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

"Lower invested assets as a result of market declines in the fourth quarter of 2018 are expected to affect recurring revenues in Global Wealth Management and Asset Management. Further improvements in market levels, as well as improvements in investor sentiment and client activity would contribute to mitigating revenue and profit growth headwinds," the bank said in its statement.

Speaking to CNBC on Tuesday, UBS' chief executive officer Sergio Ermotti, blamed ongoing macroeconomic conditions for this decline.

"You had a convergence of fears around the macroeconomic front, geopolitical, geo-economic and think about Brexit and think about everything that goes on in the world which compounded with the seasonality factors that started as a consequence of that, basically in November."

Shares in UBS fell more than 4 percent at the open after weaker-than-expected results.