After the bang – Benko: what really cost Kika/Leiner

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After the bang – Benko: what really cost Kika/Leiner

It started in June 2018. The then Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was involved, it is often claimed, after all, thousands of jobs were involved with the purchase of Kika/Leiner. However, it is always the employees who bear the brunt when the concrete juggler from Tyrol appears on the scene – whether in Germany or Austria.

Five years later, Benko passed on the traditional Austrian furniture brand to the man who had already mastered it: Frank Albert, head of the Supernova Group, headquartered in Graz. Since then, the legend has spread in the media that the sale was a good thing for the 46-year-old Tyrolean and his Signa Group. But was he really?

“Operational losses
In any case, Benko’s Signa has another loss of reputation to deal with – the excursion to the Austrian furniture trade does not necessarily have to go down in the history of its Signa Group as a success story. According to information from “Krone”, the purchase price is also far removed from the amounts that went through the media immediately after the “bang” became known, which “Krone” first reported on Thursday. Probably for good reason: according to the business magazine “Trend”, which reported on this in 2022, the balance sheets for the 2020/21 financial year showed “operating losses” of ten million euros (Leiner) and 12.8 million euros (Kika) .

In total, according to the magazine, “nearly 200 million losses carried forward were accrued.” And the Kika/Leiner boss was quoted in “Trend” at the end of October 2022 saying that “the minus” will be “slightly higher” this year.

“… pull back blows”
The renowned “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” (NZZ) was also surprised by the reported sales figures on Thursday. In a story titled “Globe owner René Benko calls for retreat after years of aggressive growth,” she noted, among other things: “Official information on how much Signa had once paid for Kika/Leiner and how high the transaction price was now, there is neither the buyer nor the seller. In Vienna, several numbers are buzzing. Signa would have paid around 430 million euros for Kika/Leiner in 2018 and has now received 400 million for the company. Early Thursday morning it was announced in Vienna that Signa Kika/ Leiner had sold for 500 million euros, but those around Supernova then learned that this amount was ‘dramatically too high’.”

Actually “fit for crisis”?
Be that as it may, the late-October 2022 “trend” holds subtle indications that a sell-off was not on the agenda, at least at the time. After all, Alfred Gusenbauer, Benko’s advisory and commissioner, said: Signa is “strong enough not to have to sell at prices we don’t like. We can also postpone deals,” said the former chancellor, who, according to the magazine, referred to various capital increases that Signa had made “crisis-fit”. Gusenbauer: “It’s good to have deep pockets now. And I don’t think interest rates will stay this high forever.”

Incidentally, Alfred Gusenbauer holds important supervisory directorships at both Signa and Strabag as president. Strabag founder Hans Peter Haselsteiner is a major investor in Signa. The Raiffeisen banking group, which according to “Spiegel” could have lent the Signa group a total of about two billion euros, is considered Signa’s main lender in Austria. Media holdings such as the “Kurier” also belong to the Raiffeisen empire.

Source: Krone

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