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UBS Stock Soars at Prospect of 10,000 Job Cuts

Shares in UBS soared on Monday after media reports the Swiss bank would announce up to 10,000 job cuts as it takes the knife to its investment banking operations, particularly its fixed income business.

Shares in UBS soared on Monday after media reports the Swiss bank would announce up to 10,000 job cuts as it takes the knife to its investment banking operations, particularly its fixed income business.

UBS Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti is expected to announce the radical restructuring along with third-quarter earnings on Tuesday, but news of the plans started leaking late on Friday.

"The changes being discussed in the media, if true, would represent a transformational change for UBS," said analysts at Espirito Santo Investment Bank in a note to clients.

"It is not just an additional cost-cutting exercise at the margin, but a strategy that would enable the bank to return much more capital to shareholders and/or significantly increase the capital ratios."

UBS shares were up 6.3 percent at 13.00 francs at 1304 GMT, having earlier touched 13.06, their highest since March. The overall European banking index was down 0.7 percent.

The expected cuts will add to the tens of thousands of jobs the financial sector has shed globally since the financial crisis of 2008. UBS's local rival Credit Suisse said last week it was also making more cost cuts.

"If UBS does take radical action, we would expect this to kick off further industry restructuring," Citi analysts said.

JP Morgan analyst Kian Abouhossein, who has long advocated radical cuts to the UBS investment bank, said Ermotti and Chairman Axel Weber, who joined UBS in May, had probably accelerated restructuring due to poor quarterly results.

"If the press reports are correct, UBS is taking the right actions to improve shareholder returns," he said. "The IB is going back to its historic core franchise under Warburg."

UBS bought SG Warburg, a British merchant bank, in 1995.

Analysts polled by Reuters before news of the restructuring emerged forecast UBS would report net profit more than halved in the quarter to 457 million francs ($489 million), though the core wealth management business is seen attracting a healthy 6.6 billion francs in net new assets.

Ermotti, a 52-year-old former co-head of equity markets at Merrill Lynch, took the top job just 13 months ago after his predecessor Oswald Gruebel stepped down over a trading scandal involving $2.3 billion of losses.

Ermotti had already announced a shift in focus towards the bank's core private banking business for wealthy clients and away from the investment banking unit, which ran up $50 billion in subprime losses, forcing a Swiss government bailout in 2008.

"PUBLIC FUNERAL"

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday that Switzerland's biggest bank was expected to make the cuts across the firm globally, but most are likely to occur in its hard-hit trading and investment banking areas.

The cuts at UBS, which employed 63,520 staff at the end of June, would come on top of 3,500 job losses announced last year.

Kepler analyst Dirk Becker said the task would be difficult, noting the investment bank employs over 16,000 people and runs a balance sheet of over 900 billion Swiss francs ($962 billion).

"This will not be done overnight," Becker said in a note. "We believe it will cost several billions of francs in exit losses, restructuring charges and realignments for this to get to the desired size."

UBS had already started informing about 400 investment bank staff they would be losing their jobs, sources said last week.

Most senior employees in advisory or trading functions have yet to hear about their fate and could be let go this week, with a big round of layoffs due on Tuesday, two sources at the bank told Reuters on Monday.

UBS bankers said they were not surprised that Carsten Kengeter, a co-head of the investment bank, looks set to head the fixed-income operations, which are expected to be split off into a separate unit to be wound down over time.

They said he had lost clout since the July arrival of Andrea Orcel, a close ally of Ermotti from Bank of America, who is expected to run the equities, fixed income, foreign exchange and advisory businesses that will remain active.

"Carsten was always going to leave sooner or later," said one senior UBS banker. "It's like a public funeral for Carsten." ($1 = 0.9353 Swiss francs)

(Additional reporting by Dasha Afanasieva and Sophie Sassard in London; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Will Waterman)

Copyright 2010 by Reuters. All rights reserved.

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