Published On: Tue, Mar 17th, 2015

Big Player on a Diminishing Field, Billionaire Safra’s Swiss Bank Is Hungry for New Acquisitions

The Morgan Stanley deal expanded Safra's client assets to $147 billion.

Joseph Safra

Billionaire Joseph Safra’s Swiss private bank J. Safra Sarasin Holding Ltd., which last year bought Morgan Stanley’s Geneva unit, is looking for new acquisitions, reported.

Joseph Safra is the sole owner of the company, which includes Sao Paulo-based Banco Safra SA, and Safra National Bank in New York.

The Morgan Stanley deal expanded Safra’s client assets to $147 billion.

Joseph Safra’s son Jacob, the bank’s vice chairman, said in a statement Tuesday accompanying the firm’s 2014 earnings report that they are “ideally positioned to pursue our growth strategy and act as a leading player in the ongoing industry consolidation.”

The Safra subsiary J. Safra Sarasin, acquired from the Dutch Rabobank Group in 2012, is growing in Switzerland, filling up the space vacated in that market by a few foreign banks—Bank of America Corp. comes to mind.

The number of Swiss private banks fell from 182 in 2005 to 139 by the end of 2013, and it is estimated that about 45 of those don’t make money.

J. Safra Sarasin Holding said their client assets rose 12 percent in 2014, with net income increasing 14 percent to roughly $205 million. The company had $3.8 billion in shareholder equity by the end of 2014, up from $3.5 billion the year before.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index has Joseph Safra in 97th place, with $11.7 billion.

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