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(UBS) - Get UBS Group AG Report

reported a big jump in fourth-quarter 2003 earnings, as the bank cited improved performance in its investment banking and securities unit for the gains.

The Swiss banking giant posted net profit of 1.86 billion Swiss francs ($1.5 billion), and said it plans to boost its 2003 dividend 30% to 2.60 Swiss francs per share and begin a new share buyback worth 6 billion Swiss francs.

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In the same quarter a year ago, UBS reported a loss of 101 billion Swiss francs. Net interest income rose 11% to 3.007 billion Swiss francs, while net fee and commission income improved 14% to 4.82 billion Swiss francs.

UBS' 2003 net profit rose by 81% to 6.385 billion Swiss francs, beating forecasts that ranged from 6.04 billion Swiss francs to 6.205 billion Swiss francs. The company's statement said all segments of the bank's business improved in 2003 vs. 2002, with the Investment Banking & Securities unit posting a 30% pretax profit of 4.078 billion Swiss francs.

The bank will recommend the higher dividend to its general meeting in April. The proposed buyback would run through March 2005 with a limit of 6 billion Swiss francs.

UBS shares climbed in European trading following the results, and the American depositary receipts were bid at $76.73 in premarket trading.