ZURICH (Reuters) - UBS, Switzerland's biggest bank, on Thursday posted a $1.14 billion (£882.9 million) net profit for the first quarter of 2019 as a pickup in market conditions dampened a hit to trading revenues and client activity.
The 27 percent drop in earnings still beat the median net profit estimate in an Infront Data poll for a 46 percent slide to $848 million. The bank's own consensus pointed to a $902 million bottom line.
"The first quarter of 2019 was characterised by challenging market conditions, which improved towards the end of the quarter and into April," Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti said in a statement.
In March, Ermotti had flagged revenues down by about a third in its investment bank and down 9 percent in wealth management, describing conditions as among the toughest for investment banks seen in years.
Profits at both its flagship wealth management business and investment bank took a significant hit as trading slipped and clients stockpiled cash, falling respectively 21 percent and 64 percent on an adjusted basis.
Positive inflows of fresh client money and an 8 percent increase in assets invested with the bank's wealth management should now help boost revenues, the bank said.
UBS is looking to take a sharper cut to 2019 costs, and said strategic efforts coming into effect in the second half of the year should support its capital returns policy, which it confirmed on Thursday.
It said it would resume in the second quarter a 2019 share buyback programme of up to $1 billion, noting the pace of buybacks would depend on the business outlook. It also said it expects to grow its dividend at a mid-single-digit rate this year, compared to its targets for mid-to-high-single-digit annual increases.
(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Michael Shields)