SWITZERLAND - Rotterdam-based Rabobank has increased its stake in the Swiss bank, Sarasin from 16% to 46% and is now holding almost 69% of the voting rights.

By purchasing all outstanding Sarasin class A shares held by the Eichbaum Holding, Rabobank has "removed the ownership uncertainty the bank has seen in recent years", according to Georg F. Krayer, chairman of the board of directors of Sarasin.

In 2002 the Dutch bank had bought a minority stake in Sarasin giving rise to speculations about its plans for the Swiss bank. But today a spokesman for Rabobank told IPE that Sarasin is to remain an independent, stressing that the Dutch bank has no intention to further increase its stake.

Sarasin will remain listed on the SWX Swiss Exchange. "At the moment we have no plans for major changes in the bank," the spokesman said.

"We firmly believe that Sarasin will benefit from Rabobank as a supportive shareholder in the ongoing consolidation process in the Swiss private banking industry," Bert Heemskerk, chief executive officer of Rabobank, said in a statement.

Sarasin said it sees the investment as a "confirmation of its strategy" and welcomed the step. The Swiss bank also said that the board structure as well as the management will stay the same.

The news broke just before Sarasin announced the launch of two new funds: a UK Equity Income Fund and a global real estate equity fund. The latter will make "full use of the new freedoms granted under the UCITS III directive", Sarasin said. Instruments like financial derivative instruments will be combined with a long-only investment strategy for downside protection.