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Elbtower construction site in Hamburg's HafenCity

Photo: Joerg Boethling / IMAGO

For weeks, work on the construction site of the Elbtower has been at a standstill, the cranes are at a standstill – because due invoices have not been paid. Now, according to a media report, the billionaire and logistics entrepreneur Klaus-Michael Kühne is to examine the takeover of the high-rise project in his hometown of Hamburg. This was reported by the »Handelsblatt« on Sunday, citing several people familiar with the process, thus confirming earlier information from SPIEGEL . The high-rise building, which is planned to cost 950 million euros, is currently the largest construction site of the crisis-stricken retail and real estate empire Signa, which was founded by Austrian billionaire René Benko.

  • You can read an in-depth analysis of Benko's billion-dollar empire Signa here: Is the Benko show over soon?

High construction costs, rising interest rates on loans and home-made problems had brought the group into difficulties and led to the insolvency of the subsidiary Signa Real Estate Management Germany (Signa REM) on Friday. In addition to premium properties from Benko, the company also bundles businesses such as the development of the Elbtower.

Kühne declined to comment on the alleged review of the Elbtower takeover at the request of the »Handelsblatt«, spokesmen for Signa and the city of Hamburg could not be reached.

Kühne has conducted initial negotiations with the Hanseatic city, an insider told the newspaper. "They're pretty far along in the talks," he said. According to the report, however, people close to Kühne Holding said that the company was concerned with playing a role in shaping the future of the Elbtower. So far, however, no decisions have been made. There is still no access to the project on the part of the city, so the possibilities of influence are limited.

Emergency scenarios of the City of Hamburg

However, in view of the interruption of construction due to outstanding payments by Signa, Urban Development Senator Karen Pein (SPD) had pointed out various options for Hamburg. In the event of non-compliance with agreed milestones for construction progress, contractual penalties are initially provided for in the land purchase agreement, Pein emphasized. In the further course of the project, repurchase rights for the Hanseatic city in relation to the property were agreed. In addition, there are extensive rights of entry into the existing planning and construction contracts, said Pein.

For the logistics entrepreneur Kühne, who has a stake in Signa Prime, the entry into tower construction – if it were to come to that – should be a satisfaction. Because the billionaire still has a score to settle with the city leaders. In October, the Senate sold parts of the port to the container shipping company MSC, a competitor of Hapag-Lloyd, where Kühne is a major shareholder. He felt duped.