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Credit Suisse returns to profit

ZURICH, Feb 11 – Credit Suisse on Thursday announced a return to annual net profit, which reached 6.7 billion Swiss francs in 2009, despite the impact of fourth quarter debt charges and a US fine over Iranian sanctions.

The full year net profit for the Swiss bank, equivalent to 4.6 billion euros or 6.3 billion dollars, marked a turnaround from an 8.2 billion franc loss for 2008 recorded at the height of the financial crisis.

The 2009 result was slightly below analysts expectations of average net profit of 7.2 billion francs polled by Swiss business news agency AWP.

"Our environment and the way we do business have changed fundamentally over the past two years," said Credit Suisse chief executive Brady Dougan, praising a "strong performance" last year.

Unlike its Swiss rival UBS, Credit Suisse said in a statement that it had attracted fresh client money on balance despite outflows triggered by a tax amnesty in neighbouring Italy, with net new assets of 6.4 billion Swiss francs. The bank\’s board proposed a substantial 2.00 franc per share dividend for shareholders.

"Our business was resilient in the fourth quarter despite lower client trading activity in November and December," said Brady, adding that the bank was "confident" about its prospects for 2010.

"We have had a strong start to the quarter with strong client activity. Our transaction pipelines and net new asset inflows are the best we have seen since the crisis."

The Swiss bank\’s net profit in the final three months of last year was nonetheless cut by nearly two thirds to 793 million francs, due to the US action and the 300 million franc debt charge.

US authorities last month imposed a record fine of 536 million dollars on Credit Suisse for "egregious" violations of US sanctions on Iran and other countries over a 20-year period.

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The settlement was the largest penalty in the history of the office that monitors violations of US sanctions, officials said.

Credit Suisse nonetheless weathered the financial and economic crisis far better than UBS, having shrugged off its last quarterly loss at the end of 2008.

It has also escaped much of the row over tax evasion and Swiss banking secrecy over the past year, and that recent stability may even have helped it profit from the loss of clientele that has hit its rival.

Brady noted that Credit Suisse\’s private banking business, which caters for a wealthy elite, had "outperformed" the market.

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