Switzerland’s biggest bank, UBS, has agreed to buy its ailing rival Credit Suisse in an emergency rescue deal aimed at stemming financial market panic unleashed by the failure of two American banks earlier this month.
“UBS today announced the takeover of Credit Suisse,” the Swiss National Bank said in a statement. It said the rescue would “secure financial stability and protect the Swiss economy.”
UBS is paying 3 billion Swiss francs ($3.25 billion) for Credit Suisse, about 60% less than the bank was worth when markets closed on Friday. Credit Suisse shareholders will be largely wiped out, receiving the equivalent of just 0.76 Swiss francs in UBS shares for stock that was worth 1.86 Swiss francs on Friday.
Extraordinarily, the deal will not need the approval of shareholders after the Swiss government agreed to change the law to remove any uncertainty about the deal.
Credit Suisse (CS) had been losing the trust of investors and customers for years. In 2022, it recorded its worst loss since the global financial crisis. But confidence collapsed last week after it acknowledged “material weakness” in its bookkeeping and as the demise of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank spread fear about weaker institutions at a time when soaring interest rates have undermined the value of some financial assets.
Shares in the 167-year-old bank fell 25% over the week, money poured from investment funds it manages and at one point account holders were withdrawing deposits of more than $10 billion per day, the Financial Times reported. An emergency loan of nearly $54 billion from the Swiss National Bank failed to stop the bleeding.
But it did “build a bridge” to the weekend, to allow the rescue to be pieced together, Swiss officials said Sunday night.
“This acquisition is attractive for UBS shareholders but, let us be clear, as far as Credit Suisse is concerned, this is an emergency rescue,” UBS chairman Colm Kelleher told reporters.
“It is absolutely essential to the financial structure of Switzerland and … to global finance,” he told reporters.
Desperate to prevent the meltdown spreading through the global financial system on Monday, Swiss authorities initiated the search for a private sector solution, with limited state support, while reportedly considering Plan B — a full or partial nationalization.
“Given recent extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances, the announced merger represents the best available outcome,” Credit Suisse chairman Axel Lehmann said in a statement.
“This has been an extremely challenging time for Credit Suisse and while the team has worked tirelessly to address many significant legacy issues and execute on its new strategy, we are forced to reach a solution today that provides a durable outcome.”
The emergency takeover was agreed to after a days of frantic negotiations involving financial regulators in Switzerland, the United States and United Kingdom. UBS (UBS) and Credit Suisse rank among the 30 most important banks in the global financial system, and together they have almost $1.7 trillion in assets.