Management Board member Ettl:

“There was no special treatment by the FMA for Signa”

14.05.2024 13:19

FMA Executive Director Helmut Ettl denied on Tuesday that the supervisory authority had given special treatment to René Benko's bankrupt Signa group. "We treat all inquiries equally", he said at a press conference on Tuesday. The background to this is a recent attempt at intervention by Alfred Gusenbauer, former chairman of the supervisory board of the insolvent real estate conglomerate.

Former SPÖ Chancellor Gusenbauer wrote a letter to Ettl in September 2023 in which he described the ECB's approach as "inexplicable" - we reported. On behalf of Signa, he wrote: "We ask for your support in clarifying the situation and are always available for discussions - also with representatives of the ECB."

Ettl: "Procedure not unusual"
The FMA confirmed receipt of the letter. According to the Austrian supervisory authority, the request had been forwarded to the responsible banking supervisor at the central bank.

Gusenbauer attempted to intervene with the FMA in the Signa matter. (Bild: Andreas TISCHLER)
Gusenbauer attempted to intervene with the FMA in the Signa matter.

When asked about this, Ettl stated on Tuesday that such an approach was not unusual: every year, the authority receives around 2000 letters from a wide variety of people and organizations - "from prominent and less prominent" bodies. The various concerns and complaints are always dealt with in the same way, Ettl assured.

Signa bankruptcy "manageable for banks"
However, the head of the FMA does not see the Signa bankruptcy wave and the exposure of the banks as a threat to the Austrian banking sector. "The extent is manageable for the domestic banks," said FMA board member Eduard Müller with conviction. The exact volume of outstanding Signa loans in the domestic banking sector is not known. A figure of around 2.2 billion euros was recently reported.

Speaking of banks: At the press conference, Ettl also spoke about Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI), which recently abandoned its plan to retrieve frozen funds from Russia with a complex transaction. In any case, the bank is well positioned, even if RBI has to write off its Russian subsidiary in full in the medium term, said the FMA Executive Board member.

Appeal also against Signa Prime trust restructuring
In the Signa case, the tug-of-war over the liquidation of the ailing company continues. On Monday evening, the Republic of Austria lodged an appeal against the trustee restructuring of Signa Prime. The President of the Austrian Financial Procurator's Office, Wolfgang Peschorn, had already lodged an appeal against the trustee restructuring of Signa Development.

This means that the Higher Regional Court will have to decide on the liquidation of the two important companies from the insolvent real estate conglomerate of investor René Benko. Bankruptcy is therefore still possible, but nothing will change in the liquidation process for the time being.

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