Switzerland

The Swiss watch industry has survived lickings before, but Rolex, Omega and Cartier now face a combination of economic punches putting them back on their heels, Bloomberg News reported. The industry was just adapting to the downturn from political protests in its largest market, Hong Kong, when the coronavirus outbreak hit. Now as China’s economic slowdown is set to engulf the rest of the world, the strong Swiss franc, surging gold prices, and store closures are set to saddle companies like Swatch Group AG and Richemont with higher costs.

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The Genevan jeweler De Grisogono SA, known for extravagant diamond jewelry worn by the likes of Paris Hilton, filed for bankruptcy, ensnared in a corruption probe involving Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s former president, Bloomberg News reported. De Grisogono couldn’t secure a buyer despite talks that lasted several months, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. The failed negotiations forced the company to file for creditor protection with Swiss authorities, which if accepted, will affect 65 jobs in the nation, the company said.

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Credit Suisse has hit back against Mozambique in a case in Britain’s High Court, arguing a government guarantee for a $622 million loan - part of a $2 billion debt scandal - is valid and that it is entitled to claim damages, Reuters reported. Mozambique sued the investment bank last year, alongside a number of other defendants, in a bid to cancel the guarantee and seek compensation for losses related to the debt saga, which tipped its economy into crisis. Credit Suisse rejected Mozambique’s arguments in its defense papers and submitted a counter claim, dated Jan.

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An influential global watchdog has warned that the vast market for leveraged loans has become increasingly vulnerable to shocks, in a move that could heighten regulatory scrutiny of the risks surrounding corporate debt, the Financial  Times reported. The Basel-based Financial Stability Board said in a report on Thursday that the recent rapid growth in leveraged loans — credit for lowly rated, more indebted companies — has been accompanied by a weakening of protections for lenders that has not been fully priced into markets.

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A Switzerland-based subsidiary of HSBC Holdings PLC on Tuesday admitted helping Americans evade taxes over a decade and agreed to pay $192 million to settle criminal charges, the Wall Street Journal reported. The penalty includes $60 million that represents the value of unpaid taxes resulting from HSBC Private Bank’s role in the conspiracy, U.S. authorities said. The total fine also includes $71.8 million in revenue that must be forfeited, stemming from fees earned from handling the undeclared accounts, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
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Schmolz + Bickenbach AG’s shareholders voted in favor of a capital increase to keep the company afloat after the two largest investors ended weeks of feuding over the proposal, Bloomberg News reported. Almost 80% of shareholders attending an extraordinary meeting near the Swiss city of Lucerne approved the share sale plan of at least 325 million Swiss francs ($326 million), removing a key hurdle towards rescuing the company from insolvency.

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An investment holding company linked to Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg pledged to invest “as much money as necessary” in Schmolz + Bickenbach AG to avert a restructuring of the ailing Swiss steelmaker’s $800 million debt pile, Bloomberg News reported. Liwet Holding AG, which holds a 26.9% stake in Schmolz, said in a statement Sunday that the pledge is conditional on there being no change in control of the company.

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Europe’s private banks and asset managers are facing a crisis as business models are hollowed out by negative interest rates, the chief executive of Edmond de Rothschild has warned, the Financial Times reported. Vincent Taupin, who has run the Swiss bank since March, also cautioned that neither acquisitions or attracting more money from customers offers an easy answer for the industry.

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Swiss bank UBS has announced a $100m overhaul of its investment bank after profits at the division more than halved in the third quarter, contributing to an overall earnings drop despite a resilient performance in wealth management, the Financial Times reported. Pre-tax profit at the investment bank fell to $203m from $489m in the same period last year — well below analysts’ expectations for $290m.

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A fleet of supercars said to have been seized by the Swiss authorities in a money-laundering investigation from the son of the leader of Equatorial Guinea was auctioned on Sunday in Switzerland, the International New York Times reported. The vehicles were among 25 luxury cars sold for more than $27 million at Bonhams auction house, according to The Associated Press, in what Bonhams called a “very special sale.” Beforehand, the cars had been estimated to bring in more than 12 million euros, or $13 million.

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