Credit Suisse Shares Crash as Banking Crisis Goes Global

A sign "Bank" is seen beneath a Swiss flag on the front of a local banking branc

Shares of Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse fell by more than 20 percent and the cost of insuring its bonds against default soared on Wednesday after its biggest shareholder said it would “absolutely not” provide additional support.

The decline brought shares to an all-time low. Concerns about the bank’s health and stability have been weighing on the stock for three months.

The most recent sell-off appeared to be triggered by remarks from the chairman of Saudi National Bank, the biggest shareholder of Credit Suisse, when asked if the Saudi bank was open to further capital injections.

“The answer is absolutely not, for many reasons outside the simplest reason, which is regulatory and statutory,” Chairman Ammar Al Khudairy said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

Al Khudairy said increasing his bank’s stake in Credit Suisse would bring an unwanted regulatory burden under Swiss, Saudi, and European laws.

“If we go above 10 percent, all new rules kick in whether it be by our regulator or the Swiss regulator or the European regulator,” he said. “We are not inclined to get into a new regulatory regime.”

He also said there were five or six other reasons but did not specify what those could be.

The bank’s so-called “bail-in bonds”—which get wiped out if the bank faces runs short of risk capital, acting as a backup cushion against losses—dropped sharply, indicating fears of serious financial distress.

Credit Suisse chairman Axel Lehmann said Wednesday that his bank’s capital and balance sheet were strong and that the bank did not need government assistance. He said “we are all hands on deck” to deal with the situation, the Wall Street Journal reported.  On Tuesday, chief executive Ulrich Koerner said the bank was in sound financial position and had a liquidity coverage ratio of about 150 percent.

These words did not appear to calm investors.

Months ago, the bank launched a complex turnaround plan that includes spinning off its investment banking unit and focusing the bank on its wealth management business. Many investors value wealth management businesses at higher multiples than investment banking as the former’s earnings are seen as more reliable and less operations less likely to produce unexpected losses.

Shares of banks across Europe fell sharply on Wednesday. A broad index of major banks shares was off by around seven percent.


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