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Sarasin Climbs Most in 21 Years After Report of Baer Offer

Bank Sarasin & Cie. AG CEO Joachim Straehle
Sarasin CEO Joachim Straehle said in July that he favored a management buyout after first-half profit increased 20 percent. Source: Bank Sarasin & Cie. AG via Bloomberg

Bank Sarasin & Cie. AG rose the most in 21 years in Zurich trading after a newspaper reported that Julius Baer Group Ltd. has made a bid for the 170-year-old Swiss wealth manager controlled by Rabobank Groep NV.

“Several potentially interested parties” are in talks about buying Rabobank’s stake, Basel, Switzerland-based Sarasin said today in a statement. Rabobank, the Utrecht, Netherlands-based lender with 68.6 percent of Sarasin’s voting rights and a 46.1 percent equity stake, declined to comment.

While Sarasin would be a “good strategic fit,” according to Baer, the Zurich-based bank declined to comment on a report in Handelszeitung that it has made an offer. Baer Chief Executive Officer Boris Collardi said in July that a takeover in Switzerland could lead to “cost synergies.”

Sarasin surged as much as 20 percent and closed 15 percent higher at 32.85 francs, valuing the company at 2.04 billion francs ($2.27 billion). That trimmed the stock’s decline to 23 percent this year.

Baer, Switzerland’s fifth-biggest wealth manager, is seeking acquisitions to compete with larger rivals such as UBS AG as a crackdown on tax evasion forces clients to reassess the benefits of offshore accounts. Sarasin had 101.6 billion francs of assets under management at the end of June compared with Baer’s 165.6 billion francs.

“It would make sense for Julius Baer to buy Sarasin,” said Peter Thorne, an analyst at Geneva-based Helvea SA. “Swiss private banks have lots of domestic problems including the strong franc and they don’t have the Swiss secrecy angle to sell as they have had in the past.”

Shared Culture

“It would be a good strategic fit as the business models are similar,” Baer spokesman Jan Bielinski said yesterday. Sarasin’s family-owned heritage also compliments Baer’s origins, according to Bielinski. In 1900, Alfred Sarasin-Iselin acquired the bank founded in 1841 by Johannes Riggenbach-Huber. Eric Sarasin is head of the private banking division today.

Bielinski declined to comment further today.

The Swiss Raiffeisen group also plans to bid for Sarasin, Tages-Anzeiger reported today, without saying where it obtained the information.

“Raiffeisen is examining as part of its growth strategy possibilities for acquisitions and partnerships in the Swiss market,” said Jens Wiesenhuetter, a spokesman for the St. Gallen, Switzerland-based bank. He declined to comment on whether Raiffeisen might bid for Sarasin.

‘Options Open’

We have “learned that discussions are apparently under way with several potentially interested parties concerning a reduction of Rabobank’s holding in Sarasin,” according to the statement from Sarasin. “At present Rabobank is retaining its majority shareholding and is keeping all its options open.”

Sarasin spokeswoman Franziska Gumpfer-Keller declined to comment further.

Rabobank appointed JPMorgan Chase & Co. at the start of the year to sell its stake, the Zurich-based Handelszeitung newspaper reported, citing an unidentified Zurich-based investment banker.

Sarasin CEO Joachim Straehle said in July that he favored a management buyout after first-half profit increased 20 percent.

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