Credit Suisse quiet on fate of CSFB and Winterthur

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Credit Suisse kept investors guessing on Thursday about the fates of CSFB and Winterthur, in spite of third-quarter earnings suggesting its once-troubled investment banking and insurance units were coming round.

The lack of information on either operation shifts the focus to December 7, when Oswald Grübel, chief executive, is expected to shed light on future strategy at a special event for investors.

Mr Grübel is expected to announce significant shifts at CSFB, with a concentration of resources on a narrow field of activities, along with closer integration between investment banking and other parts of Switzerland's second-biggest banking group.

Plans for Winterthur also remain uncertain. Renato Fassbind, chief financial officer, declined to comment on persistent rumours of sale discussions with leading European insurance groups. "We are really exploring all options," he said.

Credit Suisse was surprisingly downbeat about prospects for the financial services sector in the coming months, and hinted that any improvements in profitability would have to be generated internally.

"The group does not anticipate that the overall market for financial services will grow significantly over the next few quarters. Consequently, it expects that earnings growth can be achieved primarily through tight cost management and increased market share."

The group surprised investors with better-than-expected results for the third quarter, although earnings at a number of operations were complicated by one-off tax and operational factors.

Group net profits fell 7 per cent to SFr1.35bn ($1.14bn) quarter on quarter, taking nine-month net earnings to SFr4.67bn. Quarterly revenues fell 18 per cent to SFr11.75bn compared with the second quarter.

Institutional securities trading was the biggest surprise thanks to buoyant fixed-income trading. CSFB reported a 126 per cent increase in net income to SFr292m compared with the second quarter.

Even adjusted for one-off tax factors in the two periods, the increase still amounted to 63 per cent quarter on quarter.

However, CSFB's fixed-income trading had performed poorly in the second quarter.

Earnings at Winterthur improved strongly, with net income of SFr362m in the third quarter thanks to a better non-life performance, higher investment income and lower expenses.

Private banking, the group's main money spinner, was below expectations, with a marked fall in net new money. Net income in private banking fell 23 per cent quarter on quarter to SFr511m, also affected by seasonal factors.

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