Switzerland

Almost half of Swiss companies in the restaurant and hospitality sector are at risk of bankruptcy by the end of March without state aid to face the consequences of the restrictions imposed by the fight against COVID-19, warned Sunday the representative federation of the sector, the Inspired Traveler reported. The Swiss government is likely to extend this week the closure of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues across the country until the end of February, with hopes of rolling back the still high number of COVID-19 cases and of deceased.

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Switzerland will return $150 million from blocked Swiss bank accounts by the end of the year to the United States to be given to victims of convicted Ponzi scheme con artist Robert Allen Stanford, the Federal Ministry of Justice said on Monday, Reuters reported. Stanford, a former Texas financier known primarily by his middle name, was convicted of fraud by a Houston jury in 2012 in what prosecutors called a $7.2 billion fraud that lasted two decades and which was eclipsed in size only by the Ponzi scheme run by Bernie Madoff.

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An easyJet board member has resigned following scrutiny over her role at Wirecard, the collapsed German payments company. Anastassia Lauterbach quit on Monday as a non-executive director of the low-cost carrier with immediate effect after less than two years’ service, the Financial Times reported. Her exit came days after influential shareholder advisory group ISS questioned her place on the board, given that she had been a member of the supervisory board of Wirecard, the scandal-hit German company that filed for insolvency in June after revealing a multiyear fraud and a €1.9bn hole

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Swiss baked goods maker Aryzta rejected on Friday an 800 million Swiss franc ($904 million) takeover approach from Elliott Advisors, saying it preferred to go it alone, Reuters reported. “Aryzta announces that after careful review of the Elliott proposal, including the envisaged refinancing for Aryzta, the Board has decided unanimously to reject the proposal and not enter into a transaction agreement with Elliott,” it said in a statement. Elliott declined to comment.

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A federal judge upheld a $1.5 billion debt restructuring by offshore-drilling contractor Transocean Ltd., ruling against a hedge-fund bondholder that claimed it was treated unfairly as the company took steps to survive a turbulent oil market, The Wall Street Journal reported. Judge George B. Daniels of the U.S. District Court in New York rejected efforts by Whitebox Advisors LLC to call a debt default against Transocean during a painful period for deep-water drilling that has sent several peer companies to bankruptcy.

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Shareholders of baking goods maker Aryzta have elected a chairman who has previously spoken out against a takeover, after a deadline on an 800 million Swiss franc ($902.53 million) approach from Elliott Advisors expired last week, Reuters reported. Urs Jordi was elected as chairman of the struggling company, which produces McDonald’s burger buns, at its remotely held annual general meeting. Jordi has said now is not the time for Aryzta to consider selling up, instead favouring a restructuring of the company, whereas some previous board members favoured a takeover.

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The Swiss economy will shrink this quarter and recover less quickly than previously expected in 2021 as renewed restrictions to stem the spread of Covid-19 in Europe and elsewhere weigh on global momentum, Bloomberg News reported. Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs sees gross domestic product expanding 3.2% next year, slower than the 4.2% previously forecast.

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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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