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Star-gazing in Switzerland

You read it here first. In May 1996 Euromoney quoted a normally well-informed source in Switzerland as follows: "Who do you think has been buying UBS shares for the past few weeks?" Swiss Bank Corporation, he says. "They're already merging, they're doing a dance together." Apparently they had been doing this dance since 1995.

The source was Martin Ebner, the Swiss banker who has been most instrumental in forcing the consolidation of Swiss finance over the past year. His threat to sell his roughly 25% stake in Winterthur insurance to a foreign buyer was enough to push the firm into the arms of Credit Suisse. His continued harassment of UBS top management, and his campaign to unify its registered and bearer shares, undermined the bank's ability to act independently and damaged the reputation of its chairman Robert Studer.

Ebner's billionaire status hasn't prevented him from continuing to function, somewhat bizarrely, as a tribune of the people. Having cunningly moved his BZ group from Zurich to the neighbouring canton of Schwyz last month to save a whole year's tax he faced angry demonstrators outside his bank's new home: they wanted some of the money he'd saved to go on local good causes.

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