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Jan. 26, 2021, 1:31 a.m. EST

UBS to launch new buyback of up to $4.5 billion

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By Pietro Lombardi

UBS Group AG will restart buying back its shares and announced a new buyback program of up to $4.5 billion, after the bank closed 2020 with a consensus-beating quarterly performance.

The world's largest wealth manager by assets has weathered the coronavirus pandemic storm better than many of its peers, helped by strong customer activity in its investment bank and its vast wealth-management operations. It has already set aside $2 billion for buybacks.

UBS said Tuesday that it will launch a new three-year buyback program in the first quarter of up 4 billion Swiss francs ($4.5 billion). Including the conclusion of the existing program, the bank plans to repurchase up to $1.1 billion of shares in the first three months of the year.

The bank also said it would propose a dividend of $0.37 a share for last year.

Swiss bank UBS has met or beat all its financial targets for last year. Its quarterly profit more than doubled in the last three months of the year to $1.71 billion from $722 million a year earlier. Analysts had forecast profit of $966 million.

Operating income rose 15% to $8.12 billion.

"Our strong 2020 results clearly demonstrate the true strength of our franchise," Chief Executive Ralph Hamers said.

The buyback was a key focus going into the results, the first under Mr. Hamers, who became CEO in November.

Write to Pietro Lombardi at pietro.lombardi@wsj.com; @pietrolombard10

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