UBS swings to profit in Q4
Switzerland’s biggest bank, UBS AG, yesterday said it earned 917 million Swiss francs (US$1 billion) in the fourth quarter following a large loss a year earlier — helped by a strong performance from its investment bank unit and a tax gain. UBS lost SF1.9 billion in the final quarter of 2012, when its earnings were dragged down by litigation and restructuring charges. The bank said its fourth-quarter pre-tax operating profit came in at SF449 million, compared with a loss of SF1.84 billion a year earlier, thanks to an increase in fee and commission income largely at its investment bank unit. UBS also reported a net income tax benefit of SF470 million on deferred taxes. The bank’s full-year net profit totaled SF3.17 billion, compared with a loss of SF2.48 billion in 2012. UBS said it would propose a 67 percent dividend increase to SF0.25 per share.
BP slides into loss
BP PLC, the West’s No. 4 oil company, reported weaker quarterly profits after its refining business swung to a loss, and said it would increase the accounting provision for the 2010 US oil spill by US$200 million. The British company yesterday reported underlying replacement cost profit of US$2.8 billion for the fourth quarter, 37 percent lower than the same period a year ago, but ahead of a consensus forecast of US$2.7 billion. BP is struggling to grow profits amid rising costs, the expense of finding fresh reserves and weak refining margins. It is also dealing with the fallout from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that killed 11 men and despoiled the surrounding coastline in the US’ worst offshore environmental disaster. BP said the provision to cover the spill’s cleanup, fines, compensation and legal costs had risen to US$42.7 billion from US$42.5 billion last year.
Sharp back in the black
Japanese electronics maker Sharp yesterday said it swung back to profit for the nine months to December, thanks to stronger sales and cost cutting. The Osaka-based company booked a ￥17.7 billion (US$175 million) net profit in the April-December period, reversing a net loss of ￥424.3 billion a year earlier. Sales jumped 21 percent to ￥2.16 trillion on brisk demand for panels, including its popular “IGZO” displays for mobile phones. “We have also taken various measures on a company-wide basis to improve our business foundations, including radical reductions in total costs and fixed costs centering on labor costs as well as capital investment,” it said. Sharp revised up its full-year operating profit forecast to ￥100 billion from ￥80 billion, but left its annual net profit forecast unchanged at ￥5 billion.
ARM disappoints in Q4
UK chip designer ARM Holdings missed fourth-quarter expectations for royalty revenue from the use of its processors in smartphones because of slower growth in sales by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co. The Cambridge-based company reported processor royalties of US$130.4 million, up 7 percent, but short of analyst forecasts of US$137.9 million. Fears that the top-end smartphone market may have reached saturation were reinforced last month when Apple and Samsung, both ARM customers, reported lower-than-expected sales of the iPhone 5S and Galaxy S4 phones in the holiday season. ARM said its royalties continued to grow faster than the broader chip market, but the degree of outperformance was affected by slower sales of high-end smartphone chips in the second half of the year.