1 (tie). UBS Loses Face, Again
Face up to it UBS (UBS). You can't keep blaming Facebook for all your problems.
Shares of the Zurich-based bank got zinged Tuesday, tumbling as much as 6% in the wake of its worse-than-expected 58% fall in second-quarter profits. UBS brass blamed the drop in profits to 425 million francs ($434.16 million) from 1.02 billion Swiss francs ($1.2 billion) on losses from the Facebook (FB) IPO and a severe slowdown in its investment banking business.
Fine. We'll grant our Swiss friends that the I-banking business is currently in the crapper. When Goldman Sachs (GS) is down 25% in the past year while the S&P 500 is up 7.5%, you know the well is dry across Wall Street, not for one firm in particular.Then again, UBS is down over 35% over the same period, once again proving its ability to outpace its competitors in all the wrong categories. And for more on that subject, just check out UBS' relative losses on Facebook as a result of Nasdaq's (NDAQ) massive mishandling of the offering. Citadel and Knight Capital (KCG) (which had a few little trading troubles this week, but more on that later) say they lost around $35 million apiece. Citigroup (C) reportedly lost around $20 million on the deal. All are painful amounts indeed, but they still pale when compared to the $356 million loss announced by UBS Tuesday. Yeah sure, we are well aware of what happened that fateful May morning when Nasdaq wasn't confirming Facebook buy orders while investment bank computers kept placing them. (Or, to explain it another way with the help of the classic film WarGames, "Joshua was still playing the game" even when brokers were in the dark and Nasdaq CEO Bob Greifeld was AWOL.) We understand it was a systemic issue and will now be a legal issue since Nasdaq certainly does not plan to settle. Nevertheless, why was the damage at UBS ten times worse than everybody else? Size does matter, but stupidity always seems to matter a whole lot more when UBS is involved. And we can only imagine what's going to happen when the authorities come around to UBS' role in the LIBOR scandal. If Barclays was forced to pony up $450 million for rigging the benchmark rate, who knows how hard UBS is going to fall? "We're waiting to see the results of the investigation. But there is no evidence at this stage that we have a particular position in that matter," said CEO Sergio P. Ermotti on the subject. Ermotti, if you remember, took the reins from Oswald Gruebel last November following the firm's embarrassing $2.3 billion loss at the hands of a rogue trader. We say watch out. If history is a guide, then UBS shareholders could be in for a metaphorical game of "Global Thermonuclear War." (Another War Games reference.) And if Ermotti's not careful, he could very well be the first casualty. Take us to DEFCON 4. Or 1 (nuclear incident imminent).
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