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Erhard Grossnigg


Public relations

The ailing real estate and retail group Signa has appointed the experienced restructuring expert Erhard Grossnigg to the management board of two sub-companies. Grossnigg will join the boards of Signa Prime Selection and Signa Development Selection, Signa announced on Friday. The conglomerate now needs "peace and order for these Signa companies," said the chairman of the supervisory boards of the two companies, Austria's ex-chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. Prime and Development are part of Signa Holding, which filed for insolvency on Wednesday. The Commercial Court of Vienna had appointed the lawyer Christof Stapf as insolvency administrator.

Important Signa real estate packages are bundled in Signa Prime, while development projects in the real estate sector are bundled in Development. Work has already come to a standstill on several large Signa construction projects, above all the 64-storey »Elbtower« in Hamburg. On Thursday, a bond issued by the real estate subsidiary Signa Prime for around 200 million euros matured.

The Swiss Signa Retail Selection AG, which bundles retail holdings such as the department store chain Galeria and the Swiss retail chain Globus, had also filed for creditor protection. The aim is not to become dependent on the insolvency proceedings of the Austrian parent company Signa Holding and then to "liquidate Retail Selection AG in an orderly manner".

Meanwhile, the German Association of Towns and Municipalities warned against the closure of Galeria branches and insisted on financial aid from the federal and state governments for the realignment of city centres. "The Signa insolvency is bad news for all Galeria department store locations," Chief Executive Gerd Landsberg told the editorial network Germany. Whether and to what extent a restructuring procedure will lead to success is currently completely open. "As a result, more than 90 Galeria locations, which were actually supposed to be preserved in the long term, are threatened with closure and thus a further aggravation of the situation for the affected municipalities." Vacancies are increasing anyway.

In order to maintain the attractiveness and viability of the city centres, it is therefore important to prevent the closure of the remaining Galeria locations through a clear redevelopment roadmap, Landsberg told RND. The department stores are still important anchor points in many pedestrian zones. However, unprofitable locations cannot always be saved with taxpayers' money.

Meanwhile, the German government declared that it was keeping an eye on the consequences of the Signa bankruptcy. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economy said the case was being watched very closely. After only a few days, however, the exact consequences cannot yet be assessed. "We are examining the impact," added a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Finance. However, there is no official timetable for this.