SWITZERLAND – Julius Baer Group says its new share structure does not mean it’s a takeover candidate - and that it could be on the lookout for acquisitions.

The Swiss bank announced a single-share structure earlier this year that is planned to come into force in April, which has prompted takeover speculation.

"Julius Baer is not a takeover candidate,” said chairman Raymond Baer. “Quite the contrary is true: apart from organic growth, we can envision engaging in value-enhancing acquisitions.” He said the Baer family would maintain its ties to the company as a major shareholder.

The comments came as assets under management at the firm’s asset management division rose 37% to CHF74bn (€47.6bn) in 2004, following net new money of CHF17bn.

“In view of the robust income growth and the absence of tax asset write-offs such as those necessary in 2003, net profit in asset_management increased by 105% to CHF108m compared to the previous year.”

The growth in asset management was “particularly attributable to the successful institutional mandate and investment fund business in the US”.

Total assets under management rose 17% to CHF135bn while the bank’s total net profit rose to CHF222m from 2003’s CHF82m.

"The good business performance in 2004 validates our strategic focus on asset management for private and institutional clients as well as on trading," said Raymond Baer.

“We find ourselves in a very promising position, which we will be able to capitalize on more thoroughly and swiftly thanks to the greater entrepreneurial flexibility we will create through unification of the capital structure."

The number of staff at the bank has fallen 11% to 1,802.

The bank has hired Erdinc Benli from Swissca, where he was head of European and Swiss equities. He joins on April 1 as head of the Swiss equities, taking responsibility for the Swiss equity funds and mandates.