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Final Days at Credit Suisse Were Marked by a $69 Billion Race for the Exits

Credit Suisse said on Monday that clients withdrew nearly $69 billion from the bank in the first quarter, underscoring the spiraling troubles the embattled Swiss lender faced leading up to a fire sale to its archrival, UBS, in March.

The disclosure, in Credit Suisse’s final financial report as an independent company, sheds more light on why the Swiss government hurriedly orchestrated a takeover of the 167-year-old institution on March 19.

That decision to create one behemoth atop Switzerland’s banking industry has proved politically unpopular, especially given the hundreds of billions in government financial guarantees offered to help the deal succeed. Regulators have said they moved rapidly to shore up the Swiss financial system and prevent a shock wave from roiling global markets.

Credit Suisse said it had suffered “significant net asset outflows,” particularly in the second half of March.

At the time, investors feared for the health of the troubled lender, sending its stock plunging and forcing the bank to borrow billions from the Swiss central bank to shore up confidence in its finances. Shareholders had been on edge about Credit Suisse for months, worried about its viability amid losses and a series of scandals and financial missteps.

But the Swiss government ultimately forced the firm to sell itself to UBS for $3.2 billion. The transaction, the highest-profile bank deal since the 2008 financial crisis, was one of the most drastic efforts to calm markets amid the turmoil set off by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in mid-March.

While client withdrawals at Credit Suisse have since slowed down, they have not yet reversed, suggesting that UBS, which is set to report its own earnings on Tuesday, has its work cut out as it prepares to absorb its stricken competitor. Analysts have said UBS is paying a sharply discounted price, but bringing back clients of Credit Suisse may be difficult, especially as other rivals seek to pick off customers and top employees.

Meanwhile, Credit Suisse still has 108 billion Swiss francs’ (about $122 billion dollars’) worth of debt from the Swiss National Bank, though it had repaid 60 billion during the quarter.

As part of its financial report on Monday, Credit Suisse said it earned 12.4 billion Swiss francs for the quarter, a record. But that was tied to paper gains from the write-off of $17 billion worth of its bonds — part of the Swiss government’s terms for the bank’s bailout, a decision that has drawn lawsuits by angry investors.

Without that unusual accounting maneuver, the firm lost 1.3 billion Swiss francs.

In Monday’s announcement, Credit Suisse also said it had ended a $175 million deal to buy the boutique investment bank of Michael Klein, a longtime deal-maker and a former board member. That acquisition was part of a complicated financial turnaround plan that involved merging Credit Suisse’s investment bank with Mr. Klein’s, eventually spinning out the combined business.

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