Credit Suisse tells Hong Kong clients to 'embrace new reality'
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Days after it was rescued in an emergency buyout, Credit Suisse gathered hundreds of clients in an upscale Hong Kong hotel on Tuesday for a glitzy investment conference where they were told to "embrace the new reality".
Executives at the event from the troubled Swiss lender were eager to offer reassurances, even as details of the takeover by Swiss giant UBS remained unclear and global markets were buffeted by fears for the banking industry.
UBS agreed on Sunday to a government-brokered deal to take over Credit Suisse for $3 billion Swiss francs ($3.25 billion), a move authorities say was vital to prevent further economic turmoil.
Chairman Axel Lehmann and CEO Ulrich Korner cancelled their scheduled appearances at the event in the Chinese finance hub.
That left Head of Global Equities Neil Hosie to welcome corporate clients at Hong Kong's Conrad Hotel, overlooking the city's famed Victoria Harbour.
A Credit Suisse executive at the event told AFP Hosie did not speak about company prospects during his closed-door welcome speech and took no questions.
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A brief statement was released to the media in which Hosie said: "The (conference) represents Credit Suisse at its best."
"For 26 years, it has been our privilege to present powerful perspectives on the themes that matter most."
Organisers in Hong Kong announced the event would no longer be open to the media after the weekend's crunch talks at the Swiss finance ministry to decide the bank's fate.
A security guard tried to block an AFP reporter from taking photographs within the hotel, saying the event was private.
The three-day event, in its 26th and potentially final iteration, was meant to discuss how investors can adapt to slower growth and elevated tensions in Asia, according to the company.
The lineup of guest speakers includes British adventurer Bear Grylls, who will speak on overcoming fears, building mental resilience and how "our mindset affect(s) our success in business".
City leader John Lee said on Tuesday Hong Kong would not be significantly affected by the Credit Suisse fallout and that the lender's business and assets in the city were relatively small.
"The banking system in Hong Kong is very resilient and very properly regulated," Lee said at a regular news briefing.
Lee had been scheduled to address the conference but was replaced by another Hong Kong finance official.
'Don't sense panic'
While Credit Suisse prepares for life under new management, its Hong Kong clients were told to "embrace the new reality and thrive", according to promotional materials prepared well before the weekend's events.
The event is expected to draw more than 1,600 institutional investors from more than 200 companies, including 84 Chinese firms, according to the bank.
A crowded lunch buffet and lively conversations in hotel hallways on Tuesday betrayed few signs that anything was amiss.
Clients at the event were "by and large supportive" of the bank and have confidence in the takeover, according to the Credit Suisse executive.
"They are not worried about any problems because this (merger) has the backing of the Swiss government," he said.
A conference attendee representing a Chinese firm told AFP news about the acquisition had been encouraging.
"I don't sense a panic here," said the executive, who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
"But this is a good reminder to prepare ourselves and keep our options open."