Swiss Franc Bond House: UBS

IFR Awards 2023
5 min read
Jonathan Penner

Out on its own

In a year of unprecedented change in the Swiss market, one bank stands out as the biggest and best. Its market share grew by double digits, while it was the top-ranked bank for almost every market segment. UBS is IFR's Swiss Franc Bond House of the Year.

The Swiss market in 2023 had its biggest shake-up since the financial crisis with the disappearance of one of its biggest financial institutions in Credit Suisse. That left an opportunity for others to grab market share, though it was Credit Suisse’s acquirer, UBS, which benefited most.

It became the dominant bond house, popping up on almost every deal across all sectors. In short, the Swiss franc market became a one-horse race in 2023. UBS took first place in every league table with the exception for SSAs. It was the second year in a row in which UBS held the number one spot in the Swiss market, but with very different numbers from 2022. In 2023 it was involved on an incredible 64% of all non-self-led transactions, an increase of 13 percentage points on the year before.

"We are all part of the value chain, from DCM to syndicate, to trading, to sales. We leveraged our approach from 2022 as part of our multi-year strategy – and with quality and stamina and a lot of hard work across the teams, our success in 2023 was secured," said Manuel Gadient, UBS's head of DCM and syndicate for Switzerland.

Having so many deals on the go has its challenges as well as benefits. On the one hand, the bank’s market intelligence was second to none. On the other, though, UBS bankers had to ensure that its pipeline was cleared in a steady manner so that deals didn’t come on top of each other. The bank also had to give the same attention to each and every client.

"We had to assess investor-absorption capacity. Pipeline management and traffic control was very important in the busiest times," said Andreas Tocchio, the bank's head of Swiss franc syndicate.

UBS was involved in 16 of the 20 jumbo transactions in the Swiss market and acted as sole lead manager in six of them. It sole-led the SFr650m triple-tranche offering from chemicals company Sika in March and the SFr750m triple-tranche from ABB in August, the largest sole-led deals in the Swiss market in six years. UBS was also joint lead on pharmaceutical company Sandoz’s debut bond following its spin-off from Novartis, printing a SFr750m dual-tranche deal, the first Triple B rated deal raising SFr750m in five years.

In October, UBS brought its own inaugural Swiss franc covered bond raising an impressive SFr820m.

On the international side, UBS was involved in Bank of Nova Scotia’s SFr585m dual-tranche covered bond and the SFr500m inaugural dual-tranche covered bond offering from Toronto-Dominion, as well as in ABN AMRO’s SFr450m green senior preferred placement.

Overall, UBS led both the international and domestic segments of the Swiss franc market, with shares of 46% and 36%, up 21% and 4.5% respectively versus 2022.

On the domestic side, UBS was involved in two-thirds of all executed bonds, leading a total of 124 trades and an issuance volume of SFr11.7bn. Several rare domestic names accessed the market, including food company Hero’s return to the hybrid market after seven years with a SFr140m (including tap) bond, as well as utility ENAG’s return after 10 years.

On the international side, attractive pricing opportunities and strong investor demand helped total primary volumes to grow significantly by 42% to SFr24.6bn. With a market share of 46%, UBS kept its leading market position and was mandated on more than half of all international transactions. It advised La Banque Postale and Coca-Cola Andina on their very first Swiss bond issuances, as well as more regular names including Lloyds, BNS, KHFC, Engie, Nordea, Helaba, BPCE and CCDJ.

UBS was also Switzerland’s sustainability leader, successfully advising various issuers on their ESG bond placements in what was the biggest year ever for ESG-labelled issuance in Swiss francs. It led deals for Swisscom, Inselspital Stiftung, ABN AMRO, Engie and Hyundai, among others.

It also spearheaded Switzerland’s developing digitalisation efforts, including acting as joint bookrunner on a SFr100m digital bond for the Canton of Zurich, one of only two transactions to settle via the wholesale central bank digital currency under the SNB's pilot project with CBDCs for financial institutions (Helvetia Phase III).

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