Finance : What $37 Billion Buys

LONDON, April 1 (Reuters) – The $37 billion written off by UBS is not only more than the GDP of most African countries, it would buy over 4000 tonnes of the world’s finest caviar and pay for two Olympic games.

The staggering writedowns make UBS the hardest-hit bank by the recent credit crisis and governments, aid agencies and Hollywood glitterati must all be wincing at the thought of what the money could have been spent on.

The $37 billion figure is more than the entire GDP of 85 percent of African countries and roughly equals those of Slovenia and Sudan according to World Bank figures.

It would only fund the U.S. military’s campaign in Iraq for 74 days based on Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s estimate of the $500 million daily cost of the war to the U.S..

It dwarfs the $10 billion committed by Geneva-based Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and would fund charity group Oxfam for 87 years based on its latest accounts.

In UBS’s Swiss homeland it would buy you almost 95 million Loetscher cuckoo clocks, over 6 million Rolex watches, more than 2 million tonnes of Toblerone chocolate bars and almost 2 billion standard Victorinox Swiss Army penknives.

It would pay the bill to put on the Olympic games in London in 2012 twice.

The bank’s well-heeled private clients must also be baulking at the eye-watering losses.

It would buy 4,162.7 tonnes of the world’s best Caspian Beluga Caviar from Queen Elizabeth II’s exclusive British grocer Fortnum & Mason or 74,000 tonnes of the finest kobe beef sold in Tokyo’s swanky Mitsukoshi department store.

Theoretically it could buy you 21,766 Bugatti Veyrons although the maker of the Italian supercar currently only intends to build 300 of the handmade, 1,001 horsepower machines so you might have to settle for 74,000 Ferrari 599’s.

Fashionistas could splash out on 12.2 million of the latest Dior Babe handbags as sported by Carla Sarkozy, the new wife of the French president.

The money would also put big spending Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in the shade. $37 billion could have filled 38 soccer teams with 11 Zinedine Zidane’s at his prime.

For its next Christmas party UBS could have hired Madonna to belt out 1,233 personal renditions of her hit “Like a Virgin”, after the popstar was quoted recently as saying she won’t sing it ever again for less than $30 million a time.

As for the root of UBS’s woes, the bank could have bought 139,622 houses in the U.S. based on an average house price of $265,000.

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