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First lawsuit against Benko: Now he is to pay hundreds of millions

2023-12-21T21:21:02.184Z

Highlights: First lawsuit against Benko: Now he is to pay hundreds of millions. If the lawsuit is upheld, this could also have an impact on the restructuring of the insolvent holding company. In Austria, the Signa insolvency has already led to a wave of bankruptcies. The lawsuit was filed before a private, international commercial arbitration court in Austria. However, the restructuring administrator Christof Stapf has raised the objection of a stay on proceedings, which means that no lawsuits may be filed or continued.



Status: 21.12.2023, 10:52 a.m.

By: Kathrin Reikowski

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Rene Benko, Austrian real estate entrepreneur, talks at the Rheinische Post's Ständehaus meeting in 2020: He is now being sued before an international commercial court. © picture alliance/dpa | Marcel Kusch

René Benko, an Austrian real estate entrepreneur, is being sued from Abu Dhabi. He is to pay 713 million - which is likely to have consequences for the Signa restructuring.

Abu Dhabi/ Vienna - One of the world's richest sovereign wealth funds, Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala, is suing several Signa companies and former Signa co-owners for payment of 713 million euros. The lawsuit is also directed against René Benko personally, as the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Austrian magazine Profil write. In the case of Signa's insolvency, more and more details about René Benko's business conduct are becoming public.

As the SZ and Profil have researched, the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala is said to have put a lot of money into the Signa empire and is now demanding it back, possibly with interest. How the Austrian entrepreneur Benko got hold of a sovereign wealth fund from Abu Dhabi is also the subject of research: Benko may have traveled to the Persian Gulf with the Austrian ex-chancellor Sebastian Kurz, of all people, and called on Mubadala on that occasion.

Accusation against Benko: "Violation of conditions from financing agreements"

If the action were to be upheld, several or all eight of the shareholders of Signa Holding. By far the largest shareholder, however, is the "Family Benko Private Foundation". According to the SZ, the latter has also benefited from dividends from the Signa empire. In Austria, the Signa insolvency has already led to a wave of bankruptcies.

The accusation in the indictment is "violation of terms of financing agreements", which corresponds to the accusation that Benko and his associates did not adhere to agreements. The lawsuit was filed before a private, international commercial arbitration court in Austria. However, the strategy of Signa's restructuring administrator Christof Stapf seems to be aimed at enforcing Austrian law: He has raised the objection of a stay on proceedings, which means that no lawsuits may be filed or continued after the opening of insolvency proceedings. How much money the insolvency administrator earns per day became known only recently.

Lawsuit from Abu Dhabi is a test case - other investors could follow suit

According to the SZ, the state-owned company Mubadala from Abu Dhabi is a powerful and rich opponent that should not be underestimated. In connection with Signa, it is striking that Signa had to pay a possibly very high proportion of interest on the investment, which could indicate that Signa had been "under pressure" for some time.

If the lawsuit is successful, other investors could follow suit. If it is dismissed, other potential applicants could be deterred from filing lawsuits as well.

Would the proceedings also affect Benko as a private individual?

According to the SZ, Benko's foundation has reaped dividends, so that Benko is privately "not starving". However, it is estimated that Benko's fortune has already shrunk by half. Nevertheless, this lawsuit could have serious consequences - both for him as a private individual and for the restructuring of the Signa holding. If the lawsuit is upheld, this could also have an impact on the restructuring of the insolvent holding company.

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However, the outcome of the proceedings is still completely open - including whether the objection of the restructuring administrator is valid or not. However, it is possible that all assets that do not fall to the insolvency estate could be exempt from the suspension of proceedings anyway. (cat)

Source: merkur

All news articles on 2023-12-21

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