Credit Suisse's Thiam under pressure after first loss since 2008

Thu Feb 4, 2016 9:02am EST
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By Michael Shields and Oliver Hirt

ZURICH (Reuters) - Credit Suisse CSGN.VX reported its first full-year loss since 2008 after booking a big impairment charge at its investment banking business, sending its share price tumbling and piling pressure on new Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam.

The shares fell more than 13 percent on Thursday to hit their lowest level since 1992 after Switzerland's second-largest bank signaled a difficult start to the year. Its stock price has fallen by a third since the start of 2016.

Thiam, who was hailed as a star strategist and Asia expert when he took over the bank in July, said he would stick with his plan to focus more on wealth management in emerging economies and cut costs in the investment bank, despite the turbulent start to markets this year.

"We have a clear strategy, clearly we are implementing it in difficult markets and our outlook for the first quarter remains very cautious," Thiam told an analyst call.

"(We have) very unique market conditions and they are challenging, but fundamentally we are maintaining the objectives and the targets we have presented".

The bank aims to generate 9-10 billion Swiss francs in pretax profit by 2018, and Thiam said it could use extra cost cuts as well as revenue growth to hit the target. Pretax profit at its core business shrank to just 88 million francs in 2015.

Four months on from when Thiam set out his strategy, many analysts are still unsure how Credit Suisse will hit growth targets, which include more than doubling Asia Pacific pretax income by 2018.

"Reaching the targets by 2018 seems more unrealistic than ever," Zuercher Kantonalbank analyst Andreas Brun said.   Continued...

A Credit Suisse sign is seen on the exterior of their Americas headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar