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U.S. Mortgages Drive UBS Losses

The Swiss bank lost 11.5 billion Swiss francs on a $19.5 billion writedown to structured finance products tied to U.S. mortgages, as its money management businesses also slipped.
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Updated from 12:45 a.m. EDT


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, Switzerland's largest bank, on Tuesday reported a first-quarter net loss of 11.5 billion Swiss francs, driven by a $19.5 billion writedown tied to U.S. real estate and structured credit.

The first-quarter loss of 5.59 Swiss francs per share compares to a loss of 12.9 billion Swiss francs, or 6.45 Swiss francs per share, in the fourth quarter and a profit of 3.2 billion Swiss francs, or 1.5 billion Swiss francs, in the first quarter of 2007.

The bank had

warned of the losses

last month, and the woes of its U.S. investment banking division have been evident for at least a year, leading to the departures of former CEO Peter Wuffli and Chairman Marcel Ospel.

UBS Brandishes the Blade

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More surprising were problems in UBS' money management businesses, all of which made less money than in the first quarter of last year. Hardest hit was its global asset management division, which had net outflows of 16.5 billion Swiss francs in the quarter and saw its operating income drop 21% vs. the year-ago quarter.

UBS also announced it will sell about $15 billion in subprime assets to


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, the U.S. money manager, part of an effort to reduce trading inventories in its investment bank.

"While our exposure is still subject to swings in market conditions, we see market demand for these securities returning in certain areas and at the current level of valuations," CEO Marcel Rohner said in a press release.

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UBS has been harder hit by the credit crunch than many of its competitors. Its $19.5 billion writedown in the quarter compares to

Deutsche Bank's

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2.7 billion euro hit, and a writedown of 5.3 billion Swiss francs from Swiss rival

Credit Suisse

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U.S. firms


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Merrill Lynch


also swung to first-quarter losses on huge writedowns last month.

UBS' shares were recently down about 0.5% to $33.78, after trading as low as $33.04 on the day.