Week in review: RBS begs, UBS shreds

eFC logo

RBS wasn't the only bank cruising for extra cash last week. And UBS wasn't the only bank announcing redundancies. But these were the two that made the horrors at the others look like an episode of Teletubbies.

RBS went first, confirming plans for a rights issue worth an expected 12bn. The Scottish megalith said losses on its leveraged loans increased fivefold to 1.25bn in just two weeks.

There were prompt calls for RBS chief exec Fred Goodwin to resign, but a former chairman said this would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

UBS released a 400-page report flagellating itself for the events that led to its $37.4bn of writedowns.

This was accompanied by a restructuring plan which looked suspiciously like the Swiss bank was making a swift retreat from investment banking. Financial News reported that three wealth advisors from UBS's flagship private banking business made a quick exit for Morgan Stanley.

Bank of America revealed a 77% reduction in quarterly profits, but managed to stay in the black.

Credit Suisse announced its first quarterly loss in five years, with a 1.06bn deficit that was triple analysts' expectations. Fixed income revenues plummeted and equities prop trading made a loss. Writedowns were larger than expected on leveraged finance and structured products, but the bank achieved a near-miraculous reduction in its exposures.

Chief exec Brady Dougan declined to promise a rapid recovery, and promised to cut another 500 jobs.

Redundancies were also flaveur du jour at Merrill Lynch, which began to make

substantial cuts to its European debt and fixed income business, according to the Financial Times. This was despite a 25% increase in global bond issuance in March vs. February.

Raising capital remained a priority for banks that were not RBS.

Merrill Lynch raised $7.3bn selling bonds and preferred shares to boost its capital reserves. The US bank was also said to be in talks with TPG, a private equity firm that may stump up cash if required.

Barclays refused to rule out raising money. And in comments made before next week's AGM, the bank revealed that Q1 profits at Barclays Capital will be 'well below' last year.

Deutsche Bank was rumoured to be revving up for a multi-billion dollar sale of leveraged loans.

Citigroup sold $6bn of preference shares.

Roaring writedowns

Aside from the writedowns at Credit Suisse and RBS, Schroders' Q1 profits fell 55% on fixed income writedowns.

Ambac's shares plummeted 50% after it emerged that mortgage-related losses at the bloodied bond insurer could reach $3bn. Alphaville said it was doomed.

Bank of America wrote down $1.9bn of collateralized debt obligations and leveraged loans. It also revealed a $6bn reserve against expected losses on defaulted car loans and the like, suggesting other banks will need to do the same.

But there is still hope: Jérôme Kerviel found a job doing something in IT, indicating salvation is a possibility for redundant bankers anywhere. Dealbreaker suggested that the rehabilitation of rogue traders is not dissimilar to that of sex offenders: they go on to lead productive, if neutered, lives.

Now may be the moment to build a career in the counter-cyclical cosmetics sector: Avon is recruiting a new batch of ladies to peddle its wares on UK doorsteps. Its president said lipsticks and face powder are more popular during an economic downturn.