Switzerland

As employers shed and furlough staff in an effort to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, one employer in Switzerland has launched a recruitment drive - the Zurich liquidation service, Reuters reported. In an ominous sign of what could lie ahead, the service has quadrupled the number of staff who visit shuttered companies, take inventory and collect assets which can be sold to pay creditors. The Ascot Hotel and Swissotel in Zurich are among businesses which have already permanently closed after bookings evaporated.

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Financial risks related to the coronavirus pandemic will last for months if not years, Switzerland’s financial market supervisor FINMA said on Wednesday, pointing to particularly heightened risk of defaults on corporate loans, Reuters reported. “Thanks to the cushion of liquidity and capital they have built up over the years and their operational readiness, Swiss financial institutions have been able to withstand the initial repercussions of the crisis well,” FINMA said in its second annual financial risk monitor.

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Edinburgh Woollen Mill has been given more time to find buyers or new investors for its struggling businesses as an alternative to putting them into administration, the Financial Times reported. The group, controlled by Switzerland-based tycoon Philip Day, had already filed a notice of intent to appoint FRP as administrators, giving it protection from any legal action by its creditors. The notice was extended for two weeks on Friday.

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The Swiss government will not extend beyond next week emergency measures it imposed in April designed to prevent the coronavirus pandemic from driving otherwise healthy companies into bankruptcy, it said on Wednesday, Reuters reported. The decree that suspended companies’ obligation to report overindebtedness will expire as planned on Oct. 19, it said. “The (government) is convinced that there is a need for great restraint when interfering with the economic cycle. Relief for debtors, for example a deferral, always means a burden for creditors and for the entire economy.

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Measures taken by Transocean Ltd. to stave off a bankruptcy filing could be exactly what ends up sending the offshore drilling company into Chapter 11 alongside some of its biggest peers, Bloomberg News reported. The world’s largest owner of deep-water oil rigs recently engineered a bond swap to trim some of its $9 billion debt load and ease the crunch caused by slumping energy prices. But other creditors, led by Whitebox Advisors LLC and Pacific Investment Management Co., say the transaction amounts to a default because it pledges assets that Transocean already promised to them.

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Germany has an extra reason for cheer on Saturday when it celebrates 30 years as a united country: the vanished East German regime is picking up the tab, The Irish Times reported. After a long search – and lengthy court battle – Switzerland’s highest court has ordered Julius Bär bank to pay out 150 million francs (€140 million) that a subsidiary helped hide for East Germany’s ruling party in the dying days of the socialist state. It’s the latest tranche of money clawed back by German authorities in a 30-year game of financial hide-and-seek.

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Airport ground services and air-cargo handler Swissport International AG has reached a deal on a balance-sheet restructuring that will preserve its business under pressure from the Covid-19 pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported. The debt-for-equity swap will lighten the debt side of Swissport’s balance sheet as it contends with  the impact of reduced air travel on its revenues. Ownership of the Zurich-based company will pass from China’s HNA Group Co. Ltd. to a group of mostly U.K-. and U.S.-based investment funds once the restructuring is complete.

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Policy makers are facing the most economically challenging part of the Covid-19 crisis in avoiding the creation of “zombie” companies, according to the Bank for International Settlements, Bloomberg News reported. Ultra-easy monetary and fiscal support is helping companies avoid a liquidity crunch after the pandemic closed down businesses and demand collapsed. But that stance bears risks longer-term, said Claudio Borio, head of the Basel-based institution’s Monetary and Economic Department.

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Credit investors are unconvinced about the ability of the world’s weakest lenders to weather a coronavirus economic slowdown, according to Bank for International Settlements, Bloomberg News reported. The cost of insuring debt from lower-rated banks is yet to fully recover from a virus-fueled blowout, with spreads on credit default swaps tied to high-yield lenders an average of 127 basis points above pre-pandemic levels as of Aug. 21, BIS said in report published on Monday. CDS spreads for BBB tier banks were 30 basis points wider.

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Financial investor KKR is injecting 125 million euros ($147 million) in additional capital into crisis-hit Swiss snack machine operator Selecta under a debt restructuring agreement, Reuters reported. In addition, outstanding bonds would be converted into securities that would not mature until 2026 in a move that will significantly reduce the company's high level of indebtedness, Selecta said (here) in a statement released late on Tuesday. Major shareholder KKR, creditor banks and a substantial portion of the bondholders had agreed to the recapitalisation.

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