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Swiss Affairs

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11/23/08


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The global credit crunch has yet not affected Switzerland

Permalink 05:15:59 am, by editor of MarketObservation.com Email , 169 words   English (US)

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Categories: Stock Market, Corporate Finance, Econ/Stat

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Swissinfo: Switzerland keeps credit squeeze at bay, Nov. 22, 2008

"The global credit crunch has yet not affected Switzerland, a top economist has said.
There has been "no trace" of the squeeze according to polls of the Swiss National Bank by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) or in its dealings with banks and businesses, the department's chief economist, Aymo Brunetti, said.

"Credit terms have not become significantly more restrictive," Brunetti told the economic review Finanz und Wirtschaft.

Brunetti admitted that as Switzerland was in the midst of an economic slow-down the outlook for companies had become less favourable and credit lending had lost some of its dynamism. "But that is normal," he added.

He said Seco had not yet concluded whether a recession was unavoidable but reiterated its forecast that the economy would grow by less than one per cent in 2009.

The brunt of the downturn in Switzerland has come from the export sector, making export industries and related investors the most affected by the financial crisis, he added."

11/13/08

Permalink 05:50:07 am, by editor of MarketObservation.com, 36 words   English (US)
Categories: Econ/Stat

Swissinfo: Cabinet makes move to keep the economy alive, Nov. 12, 2008

The government says it intends to stimulate the Swiss economy with up to SFr1.5 billion ($1.26 billion) in 2009 in view of the global financial crisis. read more

11/12/08

Permalink 05:48:56 am, by editor of MarketObservation.com Email , 182 words   English (US)
Categories: Various

Swissinfo: UBS gave US onshore bank client data, Nov. 11, 2008

"UBS has admitted giving details to the United States of US onshore bank accounts as part of a tax probe that is testing Swiss bank secrecy and UBS's reputation.
UBS and the Swiss finance ministry deny however any data has been transferred from offshore or undeclared bank accounts located in Switzerland that are key to the country's long-standing tradition of bank confidentiality.

The probe focuses on whether UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, illegally helped wealthy Americans to dodge taxes through its offering of offshore services from 2000 to 2007.

The bank was singled out by US President-elect Barack Obama as one of those which helped "tax cheats".

The Swiss are still assessing a request by US authorities for information about offshore bank accounts held by American UBS clients in Switzerland. On Tuesday finance minister Hans-Rudolf Merz said he recognised the scale of the investigation.

Tax evasion is not a crime in Switzerland and the finance ministry is the only authority in the country that could authorise the transfer of Swiss-based client data to the United States."

11/11/08

Permalink 06:53:24 am, by editor of MarketObservation.com Email , 60 words   English (US)
Categories: Stock Market, Various

NZZ: Nach der CS schliesst auch die UBS Anlagefonds, Nov. 10, 2008

UBS announced yesterday that it will close its Absolute Return Bond Funds as masses of clients want to get out of these products. The money is transferred into the UBS money market fund. In the last years UBS's Absolute Return Funds were a heavy sales argument for UBS wealth managers.

11/10/08

Permalink 08:15:54 am, by editor of MarketObservation.com, 63 words   English (US)
Categories: Econ/Stat

SECO: Weiter eingetrübtes Konsumentenvertrauen, Nov. 10, 2008

The quarterly Swiss Consumer Index dropped to minus 27 according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). This is the lowest level since five years. However, only one of the elements of the Index dropped significantly: the assessement of the overall condition of the economy. Another element, the assessment of personal financial conditions, did not drop significantly.

Permalink 08:09:53 am, by editor of MarketObservation.com, 57 words   English (US)
Categories: Econ/Stat

SECO: Weiter eingetrübtes Konsumentenvertrauen, Nov. 10, 2008

Gemäss der durch das Staatssekretariat für Wirtschaft SECO vierteljährlich durchgeführten Umfrage bei rund 1'100 Haushalten ist der Index der Konsumentenstimmung im Oktober 2008 erneut zurückgegangen. Der Rückgang von -17 im Juli auf -27 Punkte im Oktober war allerdings weniger stark als in den vergangenen zwei Quartalen.

Permalink 08:09:52 am, by editor of MarketObservation.com, 57 words   English (US)
Categories: Behavioral Finance

SECO: Weiter eingetrübtes Konsumentenvertrauen, Nov. 10, 2008

Gemäss der durch das Staatssekretariat für Wirtschaft SECO vierteljährlich durchgeführten Umfrage bei rund 1'100 Haushalten ist der Index der Konsumentenstimmung im Oktober 2008 erneut zurückgegangen. Der Rückgang von -17 im Juli auf -27 Punkte im Oktober war allerdings weniger stark als in den vergangenen zwei Quartalen.

11/09/08

Permalink 07:12:18 pm, by editor of MarketObservation.com Email , 153 words   English (US)
Categories: Econ/Stat

In September Doris Leuthard, the Swiss economic minister said that Switzerland is not in danger of a recession. Many economists took such statements not very serious as Switerland is highly dependent on exports. Things look different now:

Swissinfo: Recession possible, economics minister says, Nov. 9, 2008

"In an interview with Sunday's SonntagsBlick newspaper, Leuthard said the country could experience two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

In mid-September, Leuthard said there was "zero" risk of a recession.

The economics minister also indicated that unemployment would not rise rapidly and that immigration would decrease but added that there would be more temporary jobs and fewer vacant positions.

She said the unemployment rate would reach close to three per cent, or between 120,000 and 130,000, by 2009.

In October, the number of unemployed climbed to above 100,000 for the first time since April.

Leuthard said the economics ministry was preparing measures to support the export sector in the short and medium term."

11/02/08

Permalink 12:21:52 pm, by editor of MarketObservation.com, 253 words   English (US)
Categories: Various

Tagesanzeiger: UBS zahlt guten Kundenberatern ab sofort 10 Prozent mehr Lohn, Nov. 2, 2008

UBS will increase the salaries of high performing private wealth managers by 10%, according to Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger. This measure has become necessary as competitors, such as state owned cantonal banks, aggressively headhunt such specialists. In view of the government bail out of UBS some left politicians called these salary increases "scandalous". Such argumentation is absurd as it is in the interest of UBS shareholders (including the government) that the bank can keep its key employees.

Related reading:

Swissinfo: Roth says "positive signs" in banking sector, Nov. 1, 2008

"Jean-Pierre Roth, the president of the Swiss National Bank (SNB), has identified "positive signs" in the country's banking sector despite turbulent financial markets.

"We see that a bit of confidence is coming bank in the banking sector," the head of Switzerland's central bank told Saturday's Neuen Zürcher Zeitung newspaper.

The country's government and the SNB on October 16 provided Switzerland's largest bank, UBS, with a bailout package worth SFr68 billion ($59 billion).

Roth called the overall economic situation "appreciably worse" despite the intervention of Swiss authorities but could not say whether the country would slip into a recession.

The SNB head also warned against overly rigid political interference into bankers' salaries and bonuses, saying that that establishing a salary cap would be "unreasonable".

"The danger is that talent, if not compensated at market rates, will move to banks abroad or to non-regulated institutions," Roth argued.

"Exaggerations must be corrected but in line with other countries," he added."

Permalink 06:23:20 am, by editor of MarketObservation.com Email , 63 words   English (US)
Categories: Various

Philipp Hildebrand, Vice-President of the Swiss National Bank (SNB), criticizes the absurd situation that the public Swiss cantonal banks advertise with their government protection in order to attract money from private banks such as UBS, which had to be bailed out by the Swiss government due to a liquidity crunch. The Swiss newspaper Sonntag has more about this regulatory distortions (in German language).

10/31/08

Permalink 05:56:17 am, by editor of MarketObservation.com, 84 words   English (US)
Categories: Econ/Stat

Swissinfo: Financial excesses could slow economic reform, Oct. 30, 2008

The damage caused by the financial crisis could set back support for economic reform in Switzerland, the head of the Swiss Business Federation tells swissinfo.
Economiesuisse president Gerold Bührer believes the Swiss people may need re-convincing about the merits of the open market before they vote on further liberalisation measures.

The federation has consistently campaigned for the liberalisation of the electricity and postal markets and for closer trading links with the European Union.
read more

10/30/08

Permalink 04:55:16 am, by editor of MarketObservation.com Email , 136 words   English (US)
Categories: Stock Market, Various

Swissinfo: Banker warns of tough times ahead, Oct. 28, 2008

"Geneva's banks have so far largely escaped the fallout of the financial crisis, but the future could be tough, a top banker warned on Tuesday.
Geneva is likely to see a drop of one third in tax revenue from the financial business located there in 2009-10, Ivan Pictet, president of the Geneva Financial Center foundation, told journalists.

He described the current world financial crisis as "very serious", but said Switzerland was better placed than many countries since it did not have a housing bubble.

Since Geneva concentrates on asset management, it has not been much affected directly, he explained. But he warned that recession was coming.

"We will not be able to escape the world economic situation, and we must expect two or three difficult years," he said."

10/27/08

Permalink 08:18:09 pm, by editor of MarketObservation.com Email , 160 words   English (US)
Categories: Various

Morgan Stanley Global Economic Forum: Europe More Exposed to EM Bank Debt than the US or Japan October 27, 2008

As a percentage of GDP, European and UK banks are about five times more exposed to EM (emerging markets) than the US and Japanese banks. Pressures on EM economies, therefore, could have a particularly negative ‘boomerang’ effect on European banks. (Our European banks team is also very bearish on European banks with heavy EM/CEE exposure.) For currencies, if EM becomes the second epicentre of the global financial crisis, as we believe it might, EUR seems more at risk than USD or JPY...

Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Sweden have the largest exposure to EM. By country, total loans to EM by Austrian banks amount to 85% of GDP – with EE accounting for 80% of Austrian GDP. Switzerland ranks second on this measure, with bank lending to EM amounting to 50% of Swiss GDP. Number three is Sweden at 25%.

Source: extract from article linked to above

10/26/08

Permalink 01:25:23 pm, by editor of MarketObservation.com Email , 351 words   English (US)
Categories: Various

Tagesanzeiger: Darbellay: «Keine Boni an UBS-Management, Oct. 25, 2008

The Swiss government has bailed out UBS with Swiss francs 68 billion a bit less than two weeks ago. This was a necessary measure as a bankruptcy of UBS would have harmed the Swiss financial system dramatically. There is tremendous work ahead for UBS management. Some oft the major tasks are:

  • Stabilize the bank and stop asset outflows
  • Find and implement a strategy which allows to regain trust for UBS's wealth management
  • Define a new bonus system which focuses more on the longer term and thus enhances UBS's sustainable recovery. After the implementation of a new bonus system UBS should still be in a position to attract talents for their future core businesses
  • Support the Swiss National Bank (SNB) in the divestiture of the toxic assets which are brought into a new vehicle, heavily financed by SNB

Populistic Swiss politicians as the head of the Christian Democratic Party (CVP) now stipulate that UBS managers should not receive any bonuses as long as the Swiss government participates in the equity of the bank.

This is definitely the wrong approach. The government and UBS management together, in view of the current situation, should define new objectives and tailor the boni system to the objectives defined. Monetary reward systems will remain a motivation factor.

It is also in the interest of the tax payer that such reward systems lead to the best performance of all managers involved. This does not mean that the boni have to be in the double digit million range.

The populistic behavior of various politicians is proof enough that the government is not the suitable owner of a global bank in the medium and longer term. We all hope that UBS will be able to keep and/or attract the best managers and will solve its problems quickly, laying the ground for a withdrawal of government.

(Today we learnt from the Swiss press that parties such as CVP have received millions of party donations from UBS and Credit Suisse. In view of this the extreme claims of party leaders seem to be somewhat hypocritical.)

10/24/08

Permalink 06:15:56 am, by editor of MarketObservation.com Email , 161 words   English (US)
Categories: Stock Market

Ammann, Manuel and Zingg, Andreas,Investment Performance of Swiss Pension Funds and Investment Foundations(January 2008).
Available at SSRN:
http://ssrn.com/abstract=1091165

Paper abstract:

"We investigate the performance of domestic and international bond and equity portfolios of Swiss pension funds and investment foundations over the period of 1996 to 2006. Our sample consists of 73 pension funds and 13 investment foundations with total assets of more than CHF 200 billion. We find some indications for superior skills of security selection and timing by pension funds in international bond management even net of costs for asset management and fund administration. In contrast, we find a significant net underperformance for domestic bonds, domestic equities and international equities. For investment foundations, we find a significant net underperformance for domestic bonds and international equities, whereas for international bonds and domestic equities the null hypothesis of neither significant out- or underperformance cannot be rejected. Finally, we find no evidence of persistence in the performance of Swiss pension funds and investment foundations."

10/23/08

Permalink 08:49:23 pm, by editor of MarketObservation.com Email , 110 words   English (US)
Categories: Various

Tagesanzeiger: Paradeplatz: Hunderte fordern Rückgabe der Boni, Oct. 23, 2008

Demonstrants in front of the UBS headquarters in Zurich request bankers to pay back their bonuses of the last five years. They make greed and deregulation responsible for the financial crisis which fiercly hit Switzerland as the government had to bail out UBS with Swiss francs 68 billion last week. The Swiss socialist party and the unions currently focus on the bonus discussion with populistic action.

However, the major challenge is the design of a new financial system which contributes to sustainable long term growth of the crucial Swiss financial sector. Implementing new bonus systems will be one of the key issues.

10/22/08

Permalink 07:56:04 am, by editor of MarketObservation.com Email , 612 words   English (US)
Categories: Various

Swissinfo: Move to blacklist Switzerland as tax haven, Oct. 21, 2008

German and French finance ministers have issued a joint call for Switzerland to be placed on a blacklist of non-transparent tax havens.

The move was made during a conference on financial transparency in Paris on Tuesday, attended by representatives from 17 countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This is not the first time that socialist German finance minister Steinbrück makes such an inappropriate call. He should study the Swiss tax system in debt and he would find out that it is transparent, democratic and intelligently designed, as it allows competition among cantons (states) thus avoiding inappropriate expansion of the federal government.

I provide here some official reading material:

Federal Tax Administration: "The Advantages of the Swiss Tax System"

Foreword of the official brochure, "The Advantages of the Swiss Tax System". This foreword shows that the government sees the citizen as a client rather than a milk cow.

  • Seldom in the past has Switzerland’s tax system undergone the degree of change that it is experiencing today.
  • Nevertheless, our tax system is still characterised by one federal tax law and 26 cantonal tax laws. Even though the law on tax harmonisation introduced in 2001 has served to simplify the principles of taxation regarding direct taxes imposed by the cantons and the communes, responsibility for the setting of tax levels and the determination of tax- free allowances remains in the hands of the cantons. Thus, tax harmonisation at national level in Switzerland exists formally, but not substantively.
  • Tax, along with a host of other factors, is an important consideration for businesses both large and small when choosing a location. In order to retain and improve the attractiveness of the country as a location for business in spite of international competition, Switzerland has spent several years giving intensive consideration to tax conditions. Subsequently, capital tax for legal entities has been abolished at federal level and a proportional rate has been introduced with regard to gains tax.
  • A draft bill on merger, demerger, restructuring into a different legal entity and asset transfer is presently being debated in parliament. This bill aims to create even greater flexibility within the juridical forms and enable optimal legal organisation of corporate structures.
  • This brochure presents only a summary of the Swiss tax system and its advantages. Nevertheless, it undoubtedly provides an indication that our country continues to offer an attractive fiscal environment for natural and legal persons alike. Every company – be it an industrial enterprise, headquarters, holding or financial company, a service or management company – can find an excellent fiscal location in Switzerland thanks to our domestic tax legislation and a broad network of double taxation conventions.
  • The overall harmonisation of Swiss direct taxes will not alter two characteristic features of Switzerland’s tax landscape:

    The cantons will continue to determine for themselves the tax burden levied on those liable to tax. Competition between the cantons will remain in place and contribute to ensuring that Switzerland remains well-positioned in the future by international standards.

  • Swiss citizens will still have the last say in setting tax levels and rates. Our fiscal system has the additional characteristic that the people themselves decide which taxes should be levied.
  • Your contacts in matters regarding location or taxation are still the cantonal and communal tax authorities, who are prepared to discuss specific questions on taxation at any time. If you envisage moving to or setting up a company in a particular canton, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the administration.

They are there to help you!
Swiss Tax Conference
The President

Related Reading:

MarketObservation: Trust in politicians and tax evasion, Feb. 20, 2008

10/21/08

Permalink 09:27:50 pm, by editor of MarketObservation.com Email , 71 words   English (US)
Categories: Econ/Stat

Moodys does not downgrade Switzerland after UBS bail out..

Moody’s believes that the measures announced by Switzerland on 16 October 2008 to support the country’s largest banks should contribute strongly to restoring investor confidence in the Swiss banking system, but without endangering the Aaa rating of the Swiss government. read more

By the way: Moodys is heavily critisized for its role in rating the subprime products of investment banks and alike.

10/20/08

Permalink 07:05:57 am, by editor of MarketObservation.com, 195 words   English (US)
Categories: Stock Market, Various

After the shock of the surprising massive CHF 68 billion bail out of UBS and the Swiss National Bank the Swiss authorities are considering tougher rules over high pay and bonuses at big banks, according to acting Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.

A proposition by finance minister Widmer-Schlumpf deserves further attention:

Widmer-Schlumpf mentioned in Sunday newspapers that she wanted to strengthen Switzerland's shareholder law to prevent excessive executive pay in the future. This could include allowing shareholders' assemblies a say in how much the board and top management are paid.

Widmer-Schlumpf's mentioning of a legal bandwith for top salaries could be more problematic from a market point of view. This could possibly be justified as long as governments are strong shareholders in a bank.

Widmer-Schlumpf even goes further with her proposals:

She could even imagine that additional agreements on top of pay could be forbidden by law, which might include bonuses in the form of stock options.

It seems important to me that the regulator now does not overreact. However, proposals to strengthen the influence of shareholders are always welcome. That's why I support Widmer-Schlumpf toward this direction with the modest means of this well visited weblog.

10/19/08

Permalink 08:52:52 pm, by editor of MarketObservation.com Email , 71 words   English (US)
Categories: Econ/Stat
  • CHF 68 billion UBS Bailout/Inhabitants in Switzerland = approx CHF 10'000 per inhabitant
  • Planned UBS next spring boni/Inhabitants in Switzerland = approx CHF 1'000 per inhabitant
  • Balance sheet sum of UBS = approx. CHF 2'000 billion = approx. 30 times the bail out sum
  • UBS Equity to Shareholders = approx. 40 billion = approx. 0.6 times the bail out sum
  • GDP per capita = approx. CHF 45'000 per year
  • Country GDP 2007 = approx. CHF 423 billion

Switzerland: Facts and Figures by UBS

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