* Bank open to acquisitions worth up to 500 mln Sfr
* Vontobel could finance a deal from cash reserves
* Vontobel private bank currently has 47 bln Sfr in assets
By Joshua Franklin, Angelika Gruber and Oliver Hirt
ZURICH, April 13 Swiss bank Vontobel is
looking to make acquisitions worth up to 500 million Swiss
francs ($499 million) to expand its private banking business,
Chief Executive Zeno Staub told Reuters.
"We would like to make more acquisitions in private
banking," Staub said in an interview, with a view to increase
the amount of private wealth it manages to more than 50 billion
francs from 47 billion at the end of 2016.
Private banking is a smaller business than Vontobel's asset
management division, but the bank sees benefits from expanding
it. "We would also like to buy something to be able to profit
from higher volumes," Staub said.
Zurich-based Vontobel, in which the founding Vontobel family
still holds a controlling stake, is dwarfed by Swiss banks UBS
and Credit Suisse, but any acquisition would
help it to catch up to mid-sized rivals like LGT Bank and J.
Vontobel, whose cautious use of its deep cash reserves has
in the past prompted questions from investors, could finance an
acquisition of up to half a billion francs from its own pocket,
Staub said. The bank's core capital (cet1) ratio was 19 percent
at the end of 2016.
A rule of thumb in pricing private banking deals is to pay
1-2 percent for the assets being acquired.
Private banks in its home Swiss market are high on the list
of potential targets, Staub said.
Switzerland's crowded private banking market is undergoing a
gradual wave of consolidation as an international clamp-down on
tax evasion has eroded Switzerland's position as a tax haven,
pushing some private banks to sell up or close down.
The number of Swiss private banks will fall to fewer than
100 in the next three years from around 130, consultancy KPMG
predicted in 2015.
Switzerland's decades-long role as place to shelter money
from tax was back in the spotlight last month when the London,
Paris and Amsterdam offices of Credit Suisse were
raided as part of an international tax evasion investigation.
Vontobel faced its own high-profile tax case when it was
fined 4.5 million euros ($4.8 million) over dealings with
ex-Bayern Munich soccer club President Uli Hoeness, who was
sentenced to 3-1/2 years in prison in Germany for tax evasion in
The bank is in talks with authorities in the German state of
North Rhine-Westphalia to settle a tax investigation there and
set aside 13.4 million francs for the case in 2016.
"We would be happy if this topic were dealt with for good in
2017," Staub said, declining to comment further.
($1 = 1.0019 Swiss francs)
($1 = 0.9368 euros)
(Editing by Jane Merriman)