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Signa founder René Benko

Photo: Lana Yassi / VISTAPRESS / IMAGO

The collapse of the Signa Group, owned by Austrian real estate and department store entrepreneur René Benko, has begun. The first company of the complex construct of well over 1000 companies slips into insolvency. On Friday afternoon, Signa Real Estate Management Germany filed an official application for bankruptcy with the Charlottenburg District Court. It hits a German subsidiary of Signa Prime Selection, where Benko has collected his valuable portfolio properties.

At noon, SPIEGEL and »News« had reported, citing insiders, that insolvency applications were being prepared for several parts of Signa. Meanwhile, events are coming thick and fast. In the insolvency application, which is available to SPIEGEL and »News«, it says, among other things: »Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, in our capacity as Managing Director of Signa Real Estate Germany GmbH (...) we apply to open insolvency proceedings over the assets of the applicant due to insolvency (...).«

The move reveals that Signa Prime is no longer in a position to provide its subsidiaries with sufficient financing. Signa Real Estate Germany belongs to the 100% Prime subsidiary Signa Real Estate Management GmbH. Most recently, it became known that Signa needs hundreds of millions of euros by the end of the year, but does not receive any fresh money from shareholders. Other investors also apparently no longer want to play along. Signa Holding alone will need around 500 million euros in the next few weeks, but even before that, it was said, the liquidity situation was becoming scarce.

Prime's portfolio includes Hamburg's Elbtower high-rise project, the luxury department store KaDeWe and the Upper West Tower at the Memorial Church in Berlin, as well as the premium department stores Alsterhaus in Hamburg and Oberpollinger in Munich. In Austria, on the other hand, the premium hotel Park Hyatt Vienna and the magnificent Goldenes Quartier business district are part of the existing properties.

For more than 20 years, Signa Real Estate has been developing "extraordinary real estate projects in the central locations of Germany, Austria, northern Italy and Switzerland," Signa itself advertises for the subsidiary. In the cooperation with the project partners, "reliability, fairness and adherence to deadlines are in the foreground". These values are "anchored in the corporate philosophy of the company founded by René Benko".