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Austrian Chrysler building co-owner faces 'restructuring'

Austrian Chrysler building co-owner faces 'restructuring'
The Chrysler building in Manhattan, New York City, on October 4, 2023. Photo: Daniel SLIM/AFP.

One of Austria's richest men and co-owner of the iconic Chrysler building will present plans for the company's restructuring by the end of the month, it said Friday, with several big construction projects in Germany reportedly put on hold.

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Rene Benko -- one of Austria's richest men with a net worth of $6 billion, according to Forbes -- founded Signa in 2000 and has grown it into a conglomerate with interests from real estate to media.

Among its portfolio, it co-owns the iconic Chrysler building in New York, as well as Britain's luxury department store chain Selfridges and department stores in Germany.

Signa on Wednesday announced that Benko was handing over the chairmanship of the company's advisory board to German restructuring expert Arndt Geiwitz. The Benko family private foundation continues to be the company's largest shareholder.

Geiwitz will present a "plan for essential restructuring steps" to shareholders by the end of the month, he said on Friday.

"On the one hand, all areas of the Signa Group must be examined and, on the other hand, long-term solutions must be found," he said in a press release, calling for "calm and order".

It was not yet clear how long the restructuring would take, the statement added. Earlier this week, Fitch ratings downgraded group business Signa Development after the property developer said in its interim results until June 30 that it was "facing challenges including with respect to its liquidity position".

Other Signa group entities have ceased projects and have "financing difficulties due to the changes in the interest rate environment, bank funding and valuations," according to Fitch.

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Media reports have said several construction projects in Germany have ground to a halt.

With offices in Austria, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Switzerland, the gross asset value of the group amounts to around €27 billion ($28.8 billion), and the additional gross development volume amounts to around 25 billion, according to the group's website.

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