Bloomberg News

NEW YORK - In a bid to catch up with Wall Street rivals, UBS AG plans a 23% increase in its U.S. investment banking staff this year, said Robert Hotz, who helps oversee corporate finance at the Swiss banking giant's securities arm.

UBS Warburg now has about 650 investment bankers and Mr. Hotz said it expects to add 150 in the drive, which is already under way. Hires so far include Kenneth Moelis from Credit Suisse First Boston and Jeffrey Sine from Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.

Executive recruiters estimate that the investment banker additions planned for this year could increase UBS Warburg's payroll by $75 million to $100 million.

Meanwhile, UBS Warburg rivals including Merrill Lynch & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are firing people and Credit Suisse First Boston is struggling to keep bankers amid the integration of Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette Inc., which it recently bought. UBS Warburg says it wants to avoid such buyout headaches.

"The consolidation that's occurred over the last year is creating a terrific one-time opportunity," Mr. Hotz said in an interview. "We believe by making some key hires, we can retain our culture and grow a top-five firm."

Analysts said it will not be easy for UBS Warburg to break into the top five in the rankings that measure mergers and acquisitions, equity, and debt underwriting. It slipped to seventh in mergers in 2000 from fifth in 1999 and ranks eighth this year.

In U.S. equity underwriting, UBS has managed one sale this year, for former PaineWebber client Esterline Technologies Corp. UBS AG spent $16 billion on its purchase, closed in November, of the New York brokerage PaineWebber Group Inc., which was renamed UBS PaineWebber Inc. this week.

In arranging U.S. debt sales, UBS Warburg ranks No. 9 and is closer to No. 20 than No. 1 in the amount of money raised.

"I can't think of anyone who can grow organically and get into the top league," said Norrie Morrison, a financial services analyst with Arnhold & S. Bleichroeder Inc., New York. "They have to grow through acquisition, but not immediately."

One of UBS Warburg's goals in the hiring initiative is to add clients in industries such as media and telecommunications.

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