Construction firm collapse threatens 750 jobs

Schmidlin manufactured the facade for the Twin Towers in Paris.

Swiss construction company Schmidlin Façade Technology has folded with the potential loss of 390 jobs in the Basel area and a further 357 worldwide.

This content was published on February 22, 2006 - 12:48

The company, which is best known for projects such as the Swiss Re tower in London and the Twin Towers in Paris, has ceased production and gone into receivership.

In a statement, the firm - part of the Schmidlin holding company - said that it was heavily indebted, with no financial resources at its disposal. It will not pay its employees' salaries for February and cannot provide them with a redundancy package.

But workers at the firm's headquarters in Aesch, canton Basel Country, should receive their final pay packet through insolvency insurance.

Schmidlin will continue to operate a joint venture in the United Arab Emirates, thanks to outstanding orders in the Middle East and the presence of a new investor.

The company, which has been heavily in the red since 2003, had undergone four restructuring programmes since 1997, most recently last summer.

Of the 390 workers employed in Switzerland, 168 come from the northwest of the country, while the rest come from neighbouring France and Germany.

Losses and errors

Schmidlin admitted that it made heavy losses on several large projects as well as cost estimate errors, which only came to light with the introduction of a new accounting system.

Banks Credit Suisse and UBS, as well as investment specialist Niantic Trading Amsterdam previously injected SFr100 million ($76.25 million) into the group over the years in attempts to save it, even taking over the holding company in 1998. But they have refused to offer any more financial backing.

Locals expressed shock at the news of Schmidlin's closure. Aesch mayor Marianne Hollinger said that although the company's difficulties were well known, there had been no warning until yesterday that the firm was facing bankruptcy.

Specialising in curtain wall construction, Schmidlin had worked on projects such as the Swiss Re Tower in London and Dubai's seven-star Burj al Arab hotel.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

A curtain wall is any exterior wall that is attached to the building structure and which does not carry the floor or roof loads of the building.

In common usage, curtain walls are often defined as thin, usually aluminium-framed walls containing in-fills of glass, metal panels, or thin stone.

Aluminium-framed wall systems date back to the 1930's, and developed rapidly after the Second World War, when aluminum became available for non-military use.

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Key facts

Schmidlin, founded in 1936, was involved in the design, manufacture and installation of high-quality curtain wall systems.
The company's headquarters are in Aesch near Basel, with subsidiaries and partners in London, Paris, Berlin, Abu Dhabi, Seoul and Mumbai.
The firm employs 747 people.

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