Ex-Morgan Stanley Banker Moves to Lausanne From Brazil

A Brazilian investment firm founded by Benjamin Ergas and Paulo Gazani is moving to Vaud to tap the Swiss canton’s educational institutions and find clients among the wealthy families of the Lake Geneva region.

VIS Investimentos Ltda. plans to move as early as next week to Lausanne after attending a promotional event by the canton in Brazil, Ergas, 39, said in an interview in Geneva last month. Ergas led merger and acquisition assignments in the technology industry while working at Morgan Stanley in London from 1997 to

2003.

Switzerland’s ranking by the World Economic Forum as the world’s most competitive nation has helped the French-speaking cantons of Geneva and Vaud lure more than 900 multinationals from Procter & Gamble Co. to commodity trader Vitol Group. While Vaud offers 10-year tax holidays for companies from life sciences and agribusiness to communications and environmental technologies, VIS will pay the canton’s standard rate unless an exemption is granted, Ergas said.

“Switzerland remains a great country in which to do business,” Ergas, a French-American citizen who established VIS in 2011 in Sao Paulo, said Sept. 17. “Tax advantages aren’t the reason we’re coming here.”

The European Union is pressing Switzerland to revise a corporate tax system that allows the nation’s 26 cantons to offer special rates to firms that trade outside the country. While rates in Vaud can be less than half the 23 percent paid by local companies, the canton is proposing a single rate of 13.8 percent for all companies by 2020. Brazil’s corporate tax rate, including a surtax and social contribution tax, totals 34 percent, according to figures compiled by KPMG.

EPFL Appeal

Ergas said the canton’s appeal was enhanced by the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, a university that nurtures startup companies and helped spawn Logitech International SA, a maker of computer mice.

VIS’s private-equity arm has invested in two bioenergy-related businesses, BR Energy and OMNIS, a grain storage company, S-Grain, and Sayyou, which makes a product that uses electrical charges to kill weeds. Those four companies will all be registered in Vaud, while Ergas and some of VIS’s 18 employees will relocate to Switzerland.

Ergas, who previously worked at Coghill Capital Management in Chicago, hopes to raise money from wealthy families in the region for VIS’s first publicly traded equities fund. The firm will market the fund to investors interested in sustainable finance, which combines financial analysis with environmental, social and governance criteria, said Ergas, who will be lead manager. VIS will open a Geneva office for its asset-management arm and plans to hire some staff locally.

VIS created an index of 150 publicly traded stocks to show the potential returns. The index rose 5.9 percent this year, compared with a 0.5 percent gain in the MSCI World Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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