Another Bank Just Took a Huge Hit

Credit Suisse shares lost a quarter of their value after biggest shareholder said no more money
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 15, 2023 10:40 AM CDT
Credit Suisse Just Lost a Quarter of Its Value
Gray clouds over the Credit Suisse bank in Zurich on Feb. 21, 2022. Battered shares of Credit Suisse lost more than a quarter of their value on Wednesday, after its biggest shareholder—the Saudi National Bank—said it wouldn't inject more money into the Swiss bank.   (Ennio Leanza/Keystone via AP, File)

Battered shares of Credit Suisse lost more than one-quarter of their value Wednesday, hitting a record low after its biggest shareholder—the Saudi National Bank—said it would not inject more money into the Swiss bank beset by problems long before the failure of two US lenders. The turmoil prompted an automatic pause in trading of Credit Suisse's shares on the Swiss market and sent shares of other European banks plunging by as much as double digits, reports the AP. That fanned new fears about the health of financial institutions following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in the United States. The news also sent the US stock market tumbling, reports NBC News, with the Dow plummeting almost 600 points as of the current writing.

Credit Suisse stock dropped more than 27%, to about 1.6 Swiss francs ($1.73), in midafternoon trading on the SIX stock exchange Wednesday. That's down more than 85% from February 2021. With concerns about the possibility of more hidden trouble in the banking system, investors were quick to sell bank stocks on the bad news. Other European banks took a battering as concerns spread about the sector: France's Societe Generale SA dropped 12%, France's BNP Paribas fell more than 10%, Germany's Deutsche Bank was down 8%, and Britain's Barclays Bank was down nearly 8%. Shares in the two French banks also were briefly suspended.

The STOXX Banks Index of 21 leading European lenders sagged 8.4% following relative calm in the markets Tuesday. The tumble came after Saudi National Bank Chairman Ammar Al Khudairy told Bloomberg and Reuters that the key Credit Suisse shareholder has ruled out further investments in the Swiss bank to avoid regulations that kick in with a stake above 10%. Following an announcement in October, Saudi National Bank put in some 1.5 billion Swiss francs ($1.6 billion) to acquire a holding in Credit Suisse of just under 10%. The Swiss bank was pushing to raise funding from investors and roll out a new strategy to overcome an array of troubles, including bad bets on hedge funds, repeated shake-ups of its top management, and a spying scandal involving Zurich rival UBS.

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Credit Suisse Chairman Axel Lehmann defended his bank Wednesday, saying, "We already took the medicine" to reduce risks. When asked if he would rule out government assistance, he said, "That's not a topic. ... We are regulated ... we are all hands on deck, so that's not a topic whatsoever." A day earlier, Credit Suisse reported managers had identified "material weaknesses" in the bank's internal controls on financial reporting at the end of last year. Andrew Kenningham, chief Europe economist for Capital Economics, described Credit Suisse as "a much bigger concern for the global economy" than the midsize US banks that collapsed. "The problems in Credit Suisse once more raise the question whether this is the beginning of a global crisis or just another 'idiosyncratic' case," Kenningham says. "Credit Suisse was widely seen as the weakest link among Europe's large banks."

(More Credit Suisse stories.)

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