Swiss hedge fund RBR Capital Advisers is set to unleash an activist campaign seeking to break up Credit Suisse Group AG (CS ) .
According to the Financial Times, citing sources, RBR Capital has accumulated a stake of between 0.2% and 0.3% and has put together a presentation it will release later this week that would divide up the large institution into three parts, one of which would be a Wall Street investment bank restoring the businesses old First Boston brand. According to the report, another unit would set up an asset management group and a third would hold Credit Suisse’s retail and business bank operations. First Boston was acquired by Credit Suisse in 1990.
The fund, run by Rudolf Bohli, an ex-analyst and trader, hasn’t had much success with its activist campaigns over the past few years. So far, the fund has launched three activist campaigns and two director-election battles at two companies, according to FactSet. RBR Capital earlier this year sought unsuccessfully to install three dissident directors at the board of GAM Holding AG.
In 2016, RBR and another fund, Cologny Advisors LLP, sought to install two dissident directors at Gategroup Holding but they were defeated at the company’s annual meeting, FactSet reported. However, the fund had more success in 2015 when a director battle the fund had instigated also at Gategroup for four dissident seats was settled for two board seats.
In May 2016, a unit of China’s HNA agreed to buy Gategroup, which is an airline catering company, giving the activist fund a win.
At Credit Suisse, RBR Capital is reportedly seeking to tap into investor impatience with the progress of a turnaround plan under its CEO, Tidjane Thiam. The mega-bank’s share price has dropped significantly since Thiam was installed as CEO in 2015.
The activist fund also reportedly has signed a non-disclosure agreements with 100 other investors, including some existing Credit Suisse shareholders.
Activist advisers and analysts often argue that large mega-banks could become good targets for shareholder insurgencies because they fit within the typical activist thesis that these institutions hold a “conglomerate discount.” In other words, the thesis is that their various parts are more valuable than their overall stock-market valuation. For example, Goldman Sachs in 2015 issued an analyst report suggesting that a break up of the mega-bank JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) would unlock substantial value, with a 5% to 25% potential upside.
However, activist hedge funds typically haven’t targeted big banks in part because they would have a tough time mobilizing a critical mass of investors to support their thesis at such large companies. Credit Suisse is certainly in that category and RBR doesn’t have much of a history of activism or success with director fights. That said the fund could have some success if a large enough swath of the big bank’s investor base wants to see some radical changes in the months to come.