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This fund manager shorted Credit Suisse — and he’s sticking with his bet

A fund manager is holding on to his short position in Credit Suisse despite a multibillion-dollar lifeline by Swiss authorities and a potential takeover by rival UBS . Barry Norris, fund manager at Argonaut Capital, said Saturday morning that he still expects Credit Suisse ‘s stock to become worthless. “Our view has been that the end game has always been UBS stepping in and rescuing Credit Suisse with the encouragement of the Swiss government/National Bank,” Norris told CNBC Pro after the Financial Times reported that UBS could take over all or part of Credit Suisse . “If this happens we would expect [Credit Suisse] equity holders to get zero, deposit holders guaranteed and probably but not certain that bond holders will be made whole.” Investors who hold “short” positions benefit when a stock falls. They do this by borrowing shares from other investors to sell them immediately. Then, they repurchase the shares later when the price is lower and make a profit from the difference. “We’re holding on to the [short] position,” Norris, who manages both long only and long/short equity funds, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” earlier this week. “The whole bank is in a wind-down essentially. Whether that wind down is orderly or disorderly is the debate at the moment — none of which, though, creates value for shareholders, in my opinion,” he added. Norris’ Argonaut Absolute Return Fund fund delivered 11.3% in returns last year amid a year of losses for the broader stock market. Credit Suisse’s management is believed to be in crunch talks this weekend. Neither UBS nor Credit Suisse commented on the report when contacted by CNBC. Norris stressed the importance of the bank’s situation being managed in an orderly way. “If Credit Suisse has to unwind its balance sheet in a disorderly way, those problems are going to spread to other financial institutions in Europe,” Norris said. On Wednesday, Credit Suisse CEO Ulrich Koerner thanked Swiss regulators for their $54 billion intervention saying that he was “resolved to move forward rapidly to deliver a simpler and more focused bank built around client needs.” “These measures demonstrate decisive action to strengthen Credit Suisse as we continue our strategic transformation to deliver value to our clients and other stakeholders,” the CEO added. CSG.N-CH 5Y mountain Argonaut’s Norris noted that Credit Suisse was unique among European lenders for losing 38% of its customer deposits in the last quarter of 2022. “There’s no other bank that has had the deposit outflows [like] at Credit Suisse. I think what the market is concerned about is how those deposit outflows will have accelerated in recent weeks,” he added. Credit Suisse has had tumultuous few years, battling various scandals and controversies . One of the bank’s most significant issues was the fallout from its involvement with the collapsed supply chain finance firm, Greensill Capital . Credit Suisse had invested heavily in Greensill and marketed its funds to clients, but the firm collapsed in 2021, leaving Credit Suisse and its customers with $1.7 billion in losses and reputational damage. Shortly after, the default at hedge fund Archegos Capital resulted in another $5.5 billion loss for the Swiss investment bank. The fallout from these and other controversies led to a decline in investor and customer confidence in Credit Suisse, with the bank losing billions of dollars in deposits. Impact on the European banking sector Norris also said a potential closure of the Swiss lender could impact the broader European banking sector, due to its size and classification as a “systemically important bank.” The biggest of the three U.S. banks that have failed so far in March had more than $200 billion in assets. In comparison, Credit Suisse reported in 2022 assets worth more than $572 billion — about twice as much as the former Wall Street banking giant Lehman Brothers had when it failed in 2008. He also predicted contagion hitting real estate and private equity industries, which look “vulnerable from what’s going on in financial markets at the moment.” Not everyone is as concerned about contagion, though. Investment bank UBS told clients to invest in European banks over their American counterparts. “Last week’s sell-off was indiscriminate. We will see this reverse in all regions near term,” said UBS strategists led by Bhanu Baweja on Mar 13. “But, more medium term we maintain our preference for European over US Banks. This is driven by relatively lower valuations, higher distribution yields, greater probability of [European Central Bank] keeping rates higher for longer, and few asset-liability mismatches.”

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