UBS upbeat on Mideast, warming to Europe

Swiss bank UBS’s Global Asset Management unit is "very upbeat" on the Middle East and is also a bit more bullish on opportunities in Europe than others, its head said on Sunday.

"I think when we look at the world at the moment, certainly the greatest interest we see from our major investors is China, and the Middle East comes just after that," John Fraser, Chairman and Chief Executive of UBS Global Asset Management, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in the Saudi capital.

"There is real sense that both China and the Middle East provide not just great economic opportunities but also an increasingly sophisticated environment," he said.

UBS made its first foray into Chinese real estate in April last year after raising about $100 million to support a joint venture with one of China's biggest developers, Gemdale Corp. At the time, UBS said it was mulling investments in second-tier markets such as Shenyang and Wuhan.

Fraser also said he was more positive on opportunities in Europe than others as governments had started reforms such as fiscal consolidation and the overhauling of pension systems.

"Some of the measures that governments are doing have been long overdue, but because of the crisis they are taking them quicker," Fraser said.

"I am a little more bullish about Europe than a lot of people," he said, citing Germany as example where reforms were paying off. "Three years ago people were very negative on Europe," he said.

UBS was globally also upbeat on real estate, he said, without being more specific.

Fraser declined to give a forecast on asset flows at UBS Asset Management this year, saying only, "I am confident UBS Global Asset Management will thrive, but obviously it's a difficult period."

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