Haselsteiner on Signa bankruptcy: “How could this happen to me?”

Haselsteiner on Signa bankruptcy: “How could this happen to me?”
Hans Peter Haselsteiner
Image: APA/Hans Klaus Techt

“There is no widespread damage to creditors,” said the entrepreneur on Wednesday evening in “ZiB 2”. For him, the bankruptcy was “a bitter defeat from a business perspective,” said Haselsteiner. “How could this happen to me?” He is prepared to inject up to 25 million euros into Signa Development.

  • Read on the topic: Signa: No cash injection from investors, but renovations are continuing

Haselsteiner holds a 15 percent stake in Signa Holding and 9 percent in the real estate development company Signa Development. He sees the causes of the bankruptcy primarily in external factors. “The real estate industry is dependent on financing, and the interest rate landscape has changed so radically and in such a short time that it has been difficult to adapt in this time.” The war, the energy shock, inflation and interest rates were further reasons for Signa’s decline.

  • Video: Entrepreneur Haselsteiner on the Signa bankruptcy

It was a mistake “to hold on to the hope of significant amounts of fresh capital for too long.” He himself is generally prepared to provide Signa Development with up to 25 million euros. It now depends on whether the creditors’ meeting will accept this offer. Then the damage will be minimized. He has no stake in Signa Prime, so he will not contribute any capital there.

  • On the subject: Haselsteiner: Investor money for Signa is “possible if everyone agrees” [OÖNplus]

Investors and lenders as big losers

The losers of the bankruptcy are the investors and some large institutional lenders or funds, “they will also have to give up”. The banks are comparatively less affected “and otherwise there will hardly be any victims.” Signa founder René Benko lost a large part of his assets due to the bankruptcy and was “desperate”. At Signa, Benko “played an active shareholder role” and intervened in management decisions or was informed about them. “It’s no secret that he is placed in charge of the actual management.” Benko “had the reins in his hand” and instructed his employees and his managing directors. “He shouldn’t shy away from that either, in my opinion.”

Haselsteiner does not believe that the business model was a kind of pyramid scheme and that the real estate was systematically overvalued. “Signa did not sell a single property below its book value until it went bankrupt.” But it may have grown too quickly. Their great weakness was trade, which used up reserves. For Haselsteiner, the fact that balance sheets were always submitted late is “not a major offense”.

“Everyone is waiting for it to get cheaper”

As far as the half-finished Lamarr department store on Vienna’s Mariahilfer Straße is concerned, Haselsteiner assumes that the co-shareholders of the Luxury Group will maintain their interest in the location. There are interested parties for Signa Holding’s indirect investments in “Kronen Zeitung” and “Kurier”. “Everyone is waiting for it to get cheaper. The bargain hunters are sure to be out and about here too.”

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