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Activist RBR wants Credit Suisse to float asset management unit, investment bank

By Joshua Franklin and Oliver Hirt

ZURICH (Reuters) - Activist investor RBR Capital Advisors wants Credit Suisse to float its asset management business and investment bank, valuing them at more than 20 billion Swiss francs ($20.5 billion) when split from the rest of the bank, according to a presentation reviewed by Reuters.

The Swiss hedge fund went public this week with a campaign to break up Switzerland's second-biggest bank into an investment bank, an asset management group and a wealth manager accommodating its retail and corporate banking operations.

In the presentation dated October 2017, RBR estimated a divided up Credit Suisse would be worth at least double the bank's current market capitalisation of around 40 billion francs.

The fund sees potential valuations of Credit Suisse's independent wealth management arm at 62.5 billion francs, the investment bank at 15.6 billion and the asset management business at 6.8 billion.

Credit Suisse's management views RBR's projections as misleading and believes the fund has taken the incorrect peers to build its valuations, a source close to the bank said.

Management also feels splitting out the investment bank would destroy value given that many of its richest clients, whose wealth can top $1 billion, use services at the investment bank, the source said.

"The whole growth story of the private bank would fall apart," the source said.

The bank is roughly two years into Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam's three-year plan to focus on wealth management and rely less on investment banking.

A spokesman for RBR declined to comment and said the fund will outline its strategy for Credit Suisse at the JP Morgan Robin Hood Investor Conference in New York on Friday.


RBR's plan to float the asset management business has not previously been reported, nor had the individual valuation estimates of the three Credit Suisse businesses.

The Financial Times, which reported the activist campaign on Monday, said RBR was seeking to float Credit Suisse's investment bank.

RBR wants Credit Suisse to list the investment bank, which it dubs First Boston 2.0, in either New York or London, according to the presentation seen by Reuters. Credit Suisse took control of U.S. investment bank First Boston in 1988.

In the presentation, RBR names the wealth management and corporate business SKA 2.0 - a nod to Schweizerische Kreditanstalt (SKA), Credit Suisse's name at the time of its founding - and the asset management business as Suisse Asset Management.

RBR also suggests moving First Boston 2.0 out of Switzerland, which sets tougher capital standards than the regulatory minimum, to a jurisdiction with less burdensome requirements.

However, the source close to Credit Suisse questioned the savings from this given that the most important financial centres had requirements that went beyond the minimum global rules set by the Basel Committee of bank supervisors.

RBR, led by Rudolf Bohli, has taken a stake of only around 0.2 percent in Credit Suisse and faces a steep challenge to muster the backing needed to succeed in its campaign.

Analysts and other investors, including the bank's biggest shareholder Harris Associates, have been sceptical about the plan to break up the bank, which RBR calls Project Parade 2.0.

Credit Suisse has said it welcomes the views of shareholders but its focus is on implementing its current strategy.

($1 = 0.9745 Swiss francs)

(Editing by Rachel Armstrong/Keith Weir)