Julius Baer Profits Fall 9.3%, Plans Buyback

The Swiss-based wealth manager victim of WikiLeaks exposure by former employee

Julius Baer Group Ltd. plans to buy back as much as $524 million of shares after full-year profit declined 9.3%.

Bloomberg reports that the 121-year old Swiss wealth manager reported Monday that net income fell to $368 million in 2010 from $406 million a year earlier. The private bank plans to repurchase as much as 5% of its outstanding shares by its annual shareholder meeting next year.

The news comes on the heels of Feb. 4 report that a former Julius Baer Group Ltd. employee handed over  stolen client data to WikiLeaks, which has once-again exposed Swiss banking secrecy.

In that report, Bloomberg says Rudolf Elmer, who worked for Zurich-based Baer’s Cayman Islands unit until December 2002, was detained by Swiss prosecutors after handing over data on about 2,000 cross-border accounts to WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange on Jan. 17.

The questions surrounding Baer follow attacks on secrecy in Swiss banking by U.S., French and German officials. As clients reassess the benefits of cross-border accounts, Baer must decide whether to build branch networks in Europe and Asia to compete with larger rivals such as UBS AG and Credit Suisse Group AG, according to the news service.

In Monday’s earnings release, net inflows increased to $5.6 billion in the second half of 2010, from $3.4 billion in the previous six months.

The firm also increased its total number of relationship managers by 85, to 752, over the year and said that its annual hiring target remains 40 to 50. Two-thirds of last year’s additions came from the bank’s acquisition of ING Groep NV’s Swiss business.

Profit, excluding integration and restructuring costs and amortization, climbed 6% to $5.2 billion.

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