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C.Suisse posts record full-year loss

  Credit Suisse posted a worse-than-expected Q4 net loss of CHF 6 billion ($5.2 billion), taking it to its biggest-ever annual loss, due to a poor trading performance and restructuring charges. But the Swiss bank said it had a made a “strong start” to 2009 and all its divisions were showing a pretax profit in the year to date.

Switzerland’s second-largest bank said on Wednesday that its net loss for the full year was CHF 8.2 billion, in line with what some Swiss newspapers had predicted, but below analysts’ average forecast of CHF 6.3 billion.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the bank to turn in a CHF 4 billion net loss for the quarter. “The loss looks bigger than expected, which is strange given that they profit-warned,” said Citibank analyst Jeremy Sigee. “Inflows in the private bank look disappointing. A good aspect is that they have said January was positive, but the first impression is that the report is weak.”

Credit Suisse’s results come a day after Swiss competitor UBS announced a full-year net loss of nearly CHF 20 billion, the biggest in Swiss corporate history, but also said 2009 had started better. Shares in Credit Suisse were indicated to open down 4.5% at CHF 29.50, while UBS shares were seen off 3.9% at CHF 13.1, data provided by bank Clariden Leu showed at 7:04 a.m. British time.

INFLOWS

Credit Suisse, like other smaller Swiss banks, has benefited from an exodus of clients from UBS, which said on Tuesday it had net new money outflows of CHF 58.2 billion from its wealth management unit in the Q4.

Credit Suisse said its private banking business remained solidly profitable in 2008 and recorded net new assets of CHF 50.9 billion, which CEO Dougan said “underscored the trust that clients place in Credit Suisse.” In the fourth quarter, it said its wealth management business saw continued strong net client inflows of CHF 13.8 billion, though they were offset by deleveraging of client portfolios, resulting in net new assets of CHF 2 billion.

“While our full-year results are clearly disappointing, we entered 2009 with a very strong capital position, a robust business model, a clear strategy and well-positioned businesses,” CEO Brady Dougan said in a statement. “We have positioned our businesses to be less susceptible to negative market trends if they persist in the coming months and to prosper when markets recover.”

Credit Suisse said on December 4 it would slash 5,300 jobs as it warned it made a net loss of about CHF 3 billion in October and November. It said on Wednesday it had achieved about 50% of its targeted job cuts to bring headcount down to 47,800 by year end. It reiterated a target of paring its investment bank to 17,500 staff by the end of 2009 from 19,700 at the end of 2008.

Credit Suisse said it had made combined writedowns of CHF 3.2 billion on risky assets. It also said it had suffered a trading loss of CHF 6.7 billion in the Q4. Slides for a presentation from Credit Suisse showed the bank had trimmed some of its most troublesome assets. It said had cut to CHF 8.8 billion its exposure to commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS).

Its exposure to leveraged finance, another problematic asset class, had dropped to CHF 0.9 billion. The total for risky assets in investment banking was down to CHF 11.6 billion from CHF 27 billion at the end of September and CHF 99 billion at the start of the credit crisis at end-September 2007. (Reuters)