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UBS closes branches in Germany, cuts up to 35 staff

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss bank UBS is closing four branches in Germany that serve wealthy clients and cutting up to 35 jobs as it seeks to improve profitability.

UBS said in a statement clients of its branches in Dortmund, Essen and Rosenheim would be served in Duesseldorf and Munich from the middle of 2013, while the Wiesbaden office would be merged with the Frankfurt branch at the end of 2012.

"Germany is and remains one of the most important European markets for UBS," UBS Germany chief Axel Hoerger said in a statement. "With this new organization, we are preparing ourselves for an increasingly difficult market environment."

Swiss banks are struggling to build up profitable onshore banking businesses in key European markets as the business of offering wealthy clients offshore Swiss accounts has come under pressure from neighboring governments hunting tax evaders.

A UBS spokeswoman said that while UBS Germany was profitable as a whole, its wealth management business in the country was not yet making money although it was heading that way with net new money inflows positive in the second half of 2012.

German state prosecutors said last month they had launched a country-wide search of premises of UBS clients on suspicion of tax evasion. UBS denies it helped clients evade tax.

UBS said from July 2013 it would retain branches in Berlin, Bielefeld, Bremen, Duesseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne, Nuremberg and Stuttgart.

UBS said it was also cutting five jobs in fixed income in Frankfurt as part of plans announced in October to cut 10,000 jobs worldwide as it slims down its investment bank.

(Reporting by Albert Schmieder and Emma Thomasson; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)

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