UBS Group AG Chairman Axel Weber rejected reports that Switzerland’s largest bank is planning to merge with a rival, in his first comments on the subject since discussions with Credit Suisse Group AG were reported.
“We are not looking for a bride,” Weber said in an interview with Swiss financial magazine Bilanz. Mergers can weigh on management time for years and UBS is busy with a pending change of chief executive officer and other internal business, he said. Weber declined to comment on any talks with Credit Suisse or any other European banking rivals.
European bank mergers have been pushed into the limelight, with the coronavirus, negative interest rates and fragmented markets sparking discussions. Weber has drawn up a wish list of possible partners including Deutsche Bank AG, BNP Paribas SA and Credit Suisse, Bloomberg reported last month, citing people with knowledge of the matter. The German executive sees a deal with Deutsche Bank among the most favored scenarios, one person said.
Weber attributed recent merger reports about UBS to a delayed summer “silly season” in the media, adding that people were tired of reading about the coronavirus.
Still, just two weeks ago, UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti told Swiss broadcaster SRF that the bank is keeping its options open in light of the nascent consolidation trend in Europe.
“Clearly, if there’s consolidation, it’s not just what an individual bank does but also what competitors do,” he said. “In that sense we’re keeping all our options open.”
Ermotti, who has led the bank for nine years, will cede his post to former ING Groep NV CEO Ralph Hamers in November.