Credit Suisse Commodity Loss Said to Threaten Some Bonuses

(Bloomberg) -- Credit Suisse Group AG has told some employees they may not get their bonuses after the bank lost money on a commodity financing deal last quarter, according to people familiar with the matter.

The loss is related to financing the bank’s Swiss arm provided to a commodity trading company, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Didier Denat, the head of the Swiss corporate and investment bank, called in staff on a weekend to tell them they may lose their bonuses, the people said. The unit that provided the financing is small, with a few dozen employees. One person has left over the issue, the people said.

The misstep adds to a difficult quarter for Credit Suisse, which lost about $60 million in a separate deal that left it holding shares of luxury parka maker Canada Goose Holdings Inc. when their value slumped amid tensions between Canada and China, Bloomberg reported last month.

Credit Suisse declined to comment on the details of the commodity trade and the departure. “The event was immaterial and will not affect” fourth-quarter results, Dominique Gerster, a spokesman, said in by email.

The bank is scheduled to report results on Thursday. The overall bonus pool for Credit Suisse will probably stay flat this year, people familiar with the matter said. Executives won’t voluntarily cut their bonuses for this year as they did in the two previous years, the people said. Credit Suisse declined to comment.

Rare Setback

The bank’s shares rose 1.2 percent at 3:17 p.m. in Zurich trading, bringing gains this year to about 10 percent.

The financing loss is a rare setback for the bank’s Swiss business, which has been a key profit driver during a sweeping three-year overhaul and is broadly on track to reach an ambitious pretax profit target of 2.3 billion francs in 2018. The bank’s main trading unit, by contrast, has borne the brunt of Tidjane Thiam’s restructuring program. Credit Suisse warned investors in December that it expects another loss at the pared down division for the fourth quarter.

That unit -- global markets -- suffered last quarter as volatile markets pushed clients to seek shelter in cash rather than trading stocks. Thiam has made the business -- once one of the strongest trading units on Wall Street -- more client-focused, so if the wealthy trade less, it affects the bottom line. It reported an unexpected third-quarter loss that forced the bank to abandon a revenue target.

The Swiss unit also offers corporate and investment banking -- in addition to private, retail services -- but it’s focused on domestic clients. Switzerland is home to commodities companies including Glencore Plc, which rely on trade finance as their lifeblood. Trading houses need billions of dollars of short term credit from lenders to fund the buying, storage, transportation, blending and selling of raw materials.

For banks, the business generally involves lending significant amounts of capital at relatively low rates. The loans are most often secured against the actual commodities being traded, making them relatively safe. However, banks can be exposed to losses, for instance when prices move a lot or a buyer or seller of the raw materials goes bankrupt.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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