The deal could come together Sunday if not sooner, the people said. Regulators have offered to waive a requirement for customary shareholder votes to expedite the sale, one of the people said. The discussions were fast-moving and a remaining sticking point was the status of who will own Credit Suisse’s substantial Swiss retail arm, the people said.
Credit Suisse took a more-than-$50 billion Swiss National Bank liquidity lifeline this week after concerns deepened about its prospects. The action didn’t do enough to stop the slide in Credit Suisse’s shares or stem the loss of bank deposits, compelling the central bank and Switzerland’s top financial regulator to orchestrate talks with Credit Suisse’s larger rival, UBS.
The banks have discussed a number of scenarios, including those that end with UBS taking over all or parts of Credit Suisse, according to the people familiar with the situation. UBS would likely shrink Credit Suisse’s investment banking arm, which was in the process of being spun off.
An end to Credit Suisse’s nearly 167-year run would mark one of the most significant moments in the banking world since the 2008 financial crisis. It also would represent a new global dimension of damage from a banking storm started with the sudden collapse earlier this month of Silicon Valley Bank.
UBS has long been seen as part of any state-backed solution for Credit Suisse, which has a balance sheet roughly half the size of UBS’s $1.1 trillion in total assets. Any full-scale takeover would give UBS prized businesses within Credit Suisse, such as wealth management clients in Asia and the Middle East, but might come with less desirable units such as Credit Suisse’s troubled investment bank. It also could derail UBS’s existing strategy and perceived stability with investors.
UBS has a market capitalization of roughly $65 billion, versus Credit Suisse’s $8 billion, according to
It made a $7.6 billion net profit in 2022 while Credit Suisse posted a $7.9 billion net loss.
Both banks are deemed systemically important in Switzerland and globally, and a combination could be subject to additional oversight and capital charges. Credit Suisse had around 50,000 employees at the end of 2022, including more than 16,000 in Switzerland. It has investment banking units in cities including New York, London and Singapore, an operations hub near Raleigh, N.C., and employs thousands in technology in India and Poland. UBS has around 74,000 employees globally.
Credit Suisse has billions of dollars in deferred employee compensation and prospective legal settlements that could be up to its new owner to work through. In January, it set up a capital release unit it said would take years to work through.
Swiss authorities are expected to reach at least a rough deal before Monday’s market open. A spokesman for financial regulator Finma and the SNB declined to comment. A finance ministry spokeswoman said it doesn’t comment on rumors.
The talks, which were reported earlier by the Financial Times, might not result in a transaction between Credit Suisse and UBS. They are the top two banks by assets in Switzerland, serving savers and businesses there, and rich customers across the globe. Both have Wall Street investment banks and large asset-management arms.
UBS might not be the only player in the mix. Other financial institutions are examining the situation to see if they could buy parts of Credit Suisse or back bids, people familiar with those efforts said.
Large asset managers have long coveted some of the bank’s investing businesses, including its European real estate and U.S. asset-management arms. Credit Suisse’s executives have repeatedly rebuffed those offers, arguing that asset management was a core part of its operations.
Credit Suisse’s slide toward state assistance came after other banks and large investors pulled back last week from doing business with the Swiss lender. Other investment firms stopped trading with the bank in the fall, as its yearslong problems got worse, people familiar with the matter said.
Analysts have been concerned about rich customers pulling their money. Executives at other banks said they got inflows from Credit Suisse clients last week.
The impact of a deal on wider financial markets will depend on the details and how much support, if any, regulators provide. Credit Suisse has over $160 billion of long-term debt, some of which is classified as bail-in instruments, which can get wiped out in case regulators force the bank into a restructuring.
Using UBS to save Credit Suisse marks a turnaround from nearly 15 years ago, when Switzerland bailed out UBS after it got stuck with billions of toxic assets in its U.S. business. Credit Suisse declined state aid at the time and emerged from the crisis in stronger shape.
It went on to be battered by stricter financial regulation and costly settlements with regulators. The bank underwent a series of restructurings. Credit Suisse’s latest management team, some who worked previously at UBS, had appealed for more time to prove they could turn things around.
—Ben Dummett and Patricia Kowsmann contributed to this article.
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