Singapore sovereign fund GIC says it pared UBS stake at a loss

Singapore sovereign fund GIC says it pared UBS stake at a loss

The logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen at an office building in Zurich July 27, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH: Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte Ltd, which invested in UBS to support it during the 2008/09 global financial crisis, said it has cut its stake in the bank at a loss, partly because of changes in the lender's strategy and business.

GIC, which manages more than US$100 billion globally, said it has reduced its stake to 2.7 per cent from 5.1 per cent.

"GIC made the UBS sale despite the loss because conditions have changed fundamentally since GIC invested in UBS in February 2008, as have UBS’ strategy and business," Lim Chow Kiat, chief executive of GIC, said in a statement issued on Monday.

The fund said, however, that its investment in US bank Citigroup Inc, also made at the height of the global financial crisis, was in the black and that combined returns for UBS and Citi were positive.

UBS, the world's biggest wealth manager, said separately on Monday GIC intended to place up to 93 million existing shares in UBS Group through a sale to institutional investors.

Shares of the Swiss bank closed 1.3 per cent lower at 16.61 Swiss francs after the news, which unusually came during trading hours.

At the closing price, 93 million shares would be worth 1.54 billion Swiss francs (US$1.55 billion).

GIC, owned by the government of Singapore, was one of the first sovereign funds to pump billions into Western banks, which were rocked by the financial crisis and suffered deep losses.

Singapore took a nine per cent stake in UBS in 2007 via an emergency capital injection when UBS unveiled US$10 billion worth of subprime writedowns. UBS said at that time that GIC would invest 11 billion francs.

The sovereign fund converted its 11 billion franc investment in UBS notes into shares in 2010.

UBS's website listing of major shareholders said that Singapore as the owner of GIC had held a stake of 7.07 per cent as of December 2014.

GIC Pte Ltd and its associates have agreed to a 90-day lockup period for the remaining UBS shares, UBS said.

UBS Investment Bank is acting as placement agent on the sale.

GIC declined to comment on whether it still owned a slice of Citigroup, although Reuters data showed GIC was not listed as among the top 50 Citi shareholders on Monday.

Source: Reuters