CREDIT SUISSE Group AG cut its main profitability target for this year and next as trade tensions and negative interest rates cloud the outlook after a three-year restructuring.
Switzerland’s second-largest lender now sees return on tangible equity — a key profitability metric — of higher than 8% this year, compared with previous guidance of between 10% and 11%. The Zurich-based firm also cut its forecast for next year and signaled it may take longer than previously expected to reach its ambitions, while indicating that the investment bank is set to make a loss this year.
Chief Executive Officer Tidjane Thiam emerged from a three-year restructuring with improved returns from a streamlined and less volatile bank with a greater focus on wealth management. Gains earlier this year have been canceled out by slumping markets, a drop in dealmaking and the ongoing uncertainty caused by global trade tensions.
More positively, it joined lenders including Deutsche Bank AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co. in saying that the fourth-quarter performance so far is an improvement on last year.
Thiam is not alone as banks across Europe struggle to reach targets, with interest rates likely to stay negative for the forseeable future. Deutsche Bank AG on Tuesday warned that its mid-term profitability goal now appears to be “more ambitious,” and it will need to rely on more volatile investment banking revenue to reach its goals.
Credit Suisse shares have gained about 20% this year, but they are still are down 44% since Thiam joined as he revamped the bank and asked shareholders for cash to shore up its capital buffers.
Thiam six weeks ago gave a more downbeat outlook even as trading income surged, saying the US-China trade dispute will lead to more cautious spending and investment decisions.
The bank on Wednesday is holding an investor day in London and had been expected by analysts at Citigroup, Inc. to curtail its targets for this year and next because of lower rates, a weak level of transactions in the Asia-Pacific region and at the investment bank.
The bank is pinning its wealth management growth on a strategy of cross-selling investment banking services to ultra-high net worth clients while making better use of technology for more modestly rich customers. Philipp Wehle, who took over after Iqbal Khan’s acrimonious split from the lender this year, is carving out a new entity to serve the lower tier of the wealthy.
Slumping revenue at the investment banking and capital markets unit has become a growing issue for Thiam in recent quarters, while global markets trading — a long-time straggler — has made surprise profit gains.
Credit Suisse said it seeing pressure from negative rates at the Swiss Universal Bank, the lender’s largest unit by profit. With negative interest rates of 0.75% on deposits in Switzerland, the bank has begun to pass on the costs to its wealthy clients, while it is also selling real estate to mitigate the effects.
The bank said its dealmaking division will be loss-making in 2019. Credit Suisse lost out this year as a string of deals collapsed or didn’t get off the ground, including Chevron Corp.’s abandoned bid for Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Still, the bank has managed to retain it’s global top 10 spot for mergers and acquisitions. — Bloomberg