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Martin Ebner’s BZ Group is back in business

Martin Ebner's fortunes plunged with the markets Keystone

The BZ Group, headed by fallen stock market star Martin Ebner, has ended a standstill agreement with creditor banks on a multi-billion franc debt.

In a terse three-sentence statement from its headquarters in Wilen in canton Schwyz, the group reported that it would continue its activities as a holding company.

Spokesman Ralph Stadler told swissinfo on Thursday that the group now owed its creditor banks nothing.

“Some of the creditor banks have made significant profit from the shareholding out of our portfolio, because they took the shares on their own books,” he said.

The BZ Group, which reportedly owed the banks, including Credit Suisse, around SFr3 billion ($2.2 billion), has said it will raise shareholder equity in the next few weeks by a capital increase of SFr40 million.

Ebner’s company will continue to operate as a financial investment firm with its 95 per cent stake in the Intershop real estate concern.

Earlier this month, BZ sold its almost 30 per cent stake in the Swiss machinery manufacturer, Rieter, just days before the expiry of the one-year standstill agreement on debt due for repayment.

The accord saved the group from collapse last year.

Bear market victim

Before falling from grace and becoming the most conspicuous Swiss victim of the bear market, bow-tied banker Ebner was considered a shareholder champion, who rattled his sabre inside company boardrooms.

But the fall of the equity markets took its toll, forcing BZ to sell its stakes in leading companies, including ABB, Credit Suisse, Lonza and Pirelli.

This is believed to have reduced the group’s debt by two-thirds in the past year.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper commented that the most important consequence of deal was that the BZ Group would no longer be at the mercy of the banks.

The group would not be forced to sell off assets and would be in a position to go out and buy, it said.

The paper added that any new investor would probably be no stranger to Ebner’s group.

swissinfo with agencies

The BZ Group has reported that it will continue operations after the ending of the standstill agreement with its lender banks.

It plans a capital increase of SFr40 million.

The group’s major asset is the real estate concern Intershop.

A standstill agreement is an accord in which creditors postpone a claim on debtors.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR