UBS shareholders vent spleen but approve new chair, capital hike

BASEL, Switzerland, April 23, 2008 (AFP) – Swiss banking giant UBS got approval for a fresh infusion of 14.8 billion dollars and a new chairman Wednesday but shareholders at an annual general meeting made plain their anger over huge subprime losses. Shareholders voted in favour of appointing Swiss lawyer Peter Kurer as chairman, replacing Marcel Ospel who quit as the bank became the world’s biggest victim of the US subprime crisis.

Kurer’s appointment was a rare relief for the bank’s chastened board after dozens of small shareholders voiced their anger on hearing that UBS’s subprime losses of 37 billion dollars might go higher still.

Dozens of small shareholders stepped up to the podium to denounce the bank’s management, the second time in three months directors have been grilled in such a fashion.

But shareholders also approved a fresh capital hike of 15 billion Swiss francs (9.3 billion euros, 14.8 billion dollars), the second such move since December as UBS seeks to plug the huge hole in its finances.

In the original deal, Singapore’s state investment arm GIC pledged to inject 11 billion Swiss francs into UBS, giving it a stake of around 9.0 percent and thus making it the largest single shareholder.

Another two million Sw