Zurich-based financial services provider UBS Group is still in discussion to acquire a major 51 percent stake in its Chinese securities joint venture, said the group's chief executive officer, Sergio P. Ermotti, in a telephone interview on Monday.
Ermotti said in an interview during the group's Greater China Conference 2018 held in Shanghai earlier this month that UBS will increase its stake in its joint venture in China – UBS Securities Co Ltd – from 49 percent to 51 percent. He said then that the acquisition would be a matter of months.
The attempt by the Swiss financial services provider is in response to the Chinese central government's relaxed restrictions on foreign ownership in jointly-owned financial institutions announced in November. The cap will be completely abolished in three years.
At present, State-owned Beijing Guoxiang Asset Management Co Ltd holds the major 33 percent stake in UBS Securities while UBS Group holds 24.9 percent.
UBS said in 2016 that it will double its headcount in China to 1,200 within five years' time, hiring more staff in wealth management, investment banking, equities, fixed income and asset management businesses.
UBS Group reported adjusted profits of 6.33 billion Swiss francs (.59 billion) before tax for fiscal year 2017, which is up 19 percent year-on-year, according to results released on Monday. Its net profit attributable to shareholders reached 1,16 billion Swiss francs. Global wealth management business was the biggest contributor of profit before tax for the group in 2017, growing by 14 percent year-on-year to 4,12 billion Swiss francs.
Asia Pacific has been showing strong momentum in the growth of wealth management business for UBS, according to Ermotti. The continued wealth creation in this area will provide room for further development for UBS in the mid- to long-term.
Ermotti defined the 2017 results as "excellent", given that the group delivered stronger financial results and met their net cost reduction target. Looking into the next 12 months, he said that greater regulatory clarity will "open a new chapter" for UBS group, allowing them to sharpen focus on growth across businesses, make further investments in technology and deliver attractive returns to shareholders.
Ermotti also said that the improved investor confidence and macroeconomic developments in 2017 will continue to benefit their global wealth management businesses. However, low market volatility is likely to persist in the short term, affecting institutional client activity levels in particular.