The magic of “badwill”
When UBS agreed to buy its archrival, Credit Suisse, for a little over $3 billion this spring at the Swiss government’s behest, analysts and investors said that price represented a steep discount. UBS’s latest financial results reflect just how much of a steal it was.
Today, the bank reported a $29 billion profit — yes, you read that right — for the second quarter, the biggest quarterly profit in banking history. But that paper gain belies the challenges that UBS faces as it moves to complete the largest takeover of a bank since the 2008 financial crisis.
UBS’s huge profit arises from “badwill,” an accounting phenomenon where a company buys an asset for less than it’s worth, leading to a noncash gain that essentially recognizes the actual value of the asset. (It’s also known as “negative goodwill.”) UBS reported that its underlying profit for the quarter was just $1.1 billion.
A wave of bank rescue deals this year has led to pumped-up profits for acquirers. Second-quarter profits at JPMorgan Chase jumped 67 percent in large part because of its takeover of First Republic, while First Citizens enjoyed a 3,500 percent gain in first-quarter profit after buying Silicon Valley Bank at a steep discount.
But UBS has more work to do, with the bank estimating that the Credit Suisse acquisition will be largely completed by 2026. Among its biggest tasks is consolidating its former rival’s domestic bank with its own, despite concerns that the move will undercut competition in Swiss retail banking.
Uniting the two will lead to some 3,000 job losses in the country, fulfilling fears among politicians and voters. But UBS defended its decision today, saying, “Our analysis clearly shows that full integration is the best outcome for UBS, our stakeholders and the Swiss economy.”
Meanwhile, Credit Suisse’s own results — including a pretax loss of 4.3 billion Swiss Francs ($4.9 billion) in the quarter, tied to customer withdrawals and struggles in investment banking — suggest that UBS still has big hurdles to overcome in absorbing the business.
For now, UBS shareholders appear happy, especially with the badwill gain showing just how much the bank benefited from rescuing its rival. (UBS manages about $5 trillion in client assets following the deal.) Shares in the bank were up over 5 percent today, at 23.42 Swiss francs ($26.57), and now trade at their highest level since the summer of 2008.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Senator Mitch McConnell freezes again in a public appearance. During a Q.&A. session with reporters in Kentucky yesterday, the top Senate Republican stopped speaking mid-answer for about 30 seconds. It was the second such incident in two months, and it renewed questions about the health of McConnell, 81, and his ability to continue serving out his term.
Donald Trump is accused of vastly overinflating his properties’ values. Attorney General Letitia James of New York said in a court filing that the former president fraudulently pumped up the value of his holdings for years, boosting his net worth by up to $2.2 billion. Lawyers for Trump said the case, one of many he faces in federal and state courts, should be dismissed.
Microsoft moves to unbundle its Teams app in Europe. The tech giant hopes that offering lower-cost versions of its productivity software packages that don’t include the communications program will assuage E.U. regulators who opened an antitrust investigation into the matter last month. Whether that will be enough is unclear: A spokeswoman for the European Commission declined to comment on whether the move satisfied regulators’ concerns.
Regulators reportedly look into benefits that Tesla gave Elon Musk. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan and officials at the S.E.C. are examining perks including a spacious glass house in Texas described within the company as a house for its C.E.O., according to The Wall Street Journal. The inquiries, which appear to center on whether company-provided benefits were properly disclosed to investors, are the latest legal headache for Tesla.
What to watch in tomorrow’s jobs report
The S&P 500 is riding a four-day winning streak on hopes that the Fed is done raising interest rates. That optimistic view will be tested tomorrow morning when the Labor Department releases its nonfarm payrolls report for August.
Economists polled by Reuters estimate that employers added 170,000 jobs in August, which would be the smallest monthly increase since December 2020. But investors would likely greet a modest slowdown — along with evidence that wages are moderating — favorably.
For much of the year, markets have reacted positively to any piece of data showing that the Fed’s policy of raising its prime lending rate was cooling the red-hot labor market and, in turn, helping to lower inflation.
The labor data already released this week has cheered investors. Yesterday’s ADP private payroll report for August showed the slowest job growth in five months. That followed a Labor Department data release on Tuesday that revealed a steep drop in job openings. “The labor market is cooling and is taking pressure off policymakers concerned with a second wave of inflation,” Jeffrey Roach, chief economist for LPL Financial, a research firm, wrote in a note yesterday, pointing to the ADP data.
The Fed is widely expected to hold rates steady at its meeting next month. And the futures market yesterday was pricing in a 44 percent chance of the Fed raising rates at its November policy meeting — a stark drop from the 67 percent odds traders were placing at the beginning of the week. Jay Powell, the Fed chair, warned last week that central bankers do not consider their inflation fight to be over yet, making Friday’s jobs numbers pivotal.
In other labor news, the Biden administration yesterday proposed an increase in the cutoff for salaried workers who can receive overtime, making millions more workers eligible for time-and-a-half pay if they work more than 40 hours a week.
“I’ve seen all kinds of weird things with people ahead, they fall behind, they disappear. And it’s just way too early to have some conclusion that two people that the country doesn’t want are going to be the logical outcomes.”
— Steve Schwarzman, the co-founder of Blackstone, speaking to Puck about the possibility of a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024 despite both candidates polling poorly among voters. Schwarzman, a major Republican donor who has turned his back on Trump, said another candidate could yet claim the G.O.P. nomination.
DeSantis’s flip-flopping on federal aid
Hurricane Idalia has been downgraded to a tropical storm and is moving north after battering Florida, leaving residents counting the costs of the devastation and the insurance industry predicting billions of dollars in claims. But the storm’s impact also shines a light on the complicated relationship between Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential contender, and the federal government, which typically spends big to help in such cleanups.
The Biden administration has pledged support. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has about $3.4 billion in its disaster relief fund to deal with the fallout of the Maui wildfires and Idalia. Deanne Criswell, head of the agency, told reporters yesterday that DeSantis had “no unmet needs,” before heading to Florida. President Biden said that he had called DeSantis to say he had approved an emergency declaration that the governor requested, adding, “I think he trusts my judgment and my desire to help.”
But DeSantis hasn’t always backed the spending of federal funds for disaster relief. When he was a congressman in 2013, he rejected assistance for victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York. As governor of Florida, however, he has sought aid, and during Hurricane Ian last year he paused his political feuding with Biden. DeSantis also condemned F.E.M.A. for denying a request for funds to rebuild homes after Ian.
DeSantis is already rejecting federal funds in other ways. Florida is eligible for about $350 million in green incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act, but the governor has refused the money. Republican governors in South Dakota and Iowa, along with Kentucky’s Democratic governor, are turning down smaller sums.
But DeSantis’s broader rejection suggests that taking a stance on I.R.A. money could become a talking point in the race to decide the Republican presidential candidate. And that could ultimately undermine President Biden’s efforts to promote his environmental policies on the 2024 campaign trail while climate change makes emergencies like Idalia increasingly common.
THE SPEED READ
Reid Hoffman, the LinkedIn co-founder, will reduce his role in finding new investments at Greylock Ventures to focus more time on artificial intelligence efforts. (WSJ)
Dan Och, a co-founder of the hedge fund Sculptor, is fighting back against its planned sale to Rithm Capital, widening a messy dispute over the fate of the once-giant fund. (FT)
The billionaire Thomas Tull is reportedly seeking to increase his stake in the N.F.L.’s Pittsburgh Steelers. (Bloomberg)
The Fed reportedly raised risk and compliance concerns about a Goldman Sachs division’s work with fintech companies. (FT)
“How Jeffrey Epstein Tried to Tap Into Trump’s Circle” (WSJ)
A federal judge rejected a bid by Trevor Milton, the founder of the electric vehicle maker Nikola, for a new trial on fraud charges, dismissing claims that a juror was secretly biased against the rich. (Reuters)
Best of the rest
New documents purport to show how associates of the Adani family used opaque funds to secretly amass holdings in the multibillion-dollar Adani conglomerate. (FT)
Laszlo Birinyi, the financier who made a fortune with an investing approach centered on market “psychology,” died on Aug. 21. He was 79. (NYT)
How billionaires including Sumner Redstone, Sam Zell and founders of Carlyle were reportedly defrauded of millions by a man who was already behind bars. (New Yorker)
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