Major shareholders under the magnifying glass
Swiss company in foreign hands
Credit Suisse is no exception: more and more money is flowing from abroad to Swiss companies. That can be tricky.
On Thursday, it was announced that Saudi National Bank is acquiring 9.9 percent of Credit Suisse, which has been hit by the crisis. American Harris Associates and other Middle Eastern financiers have been shareholders for some time.
Foreign investors are keen on Swiss companies. Latest example: Credit Suisse. On Thursday, it was announced that Saudi National Bank was acquiring a 9.9 percent stake in the troubled bank. American Harris Associates and other Middle Eastern financiers have been shareholders for some time. However, CS is no exception. Traditionally, those from the United States are at the forefront of foreign investors in Switzerland. They have the highest percentage of Swiss companies – and by a large margin. It is followed by Sweden, Norway, Great Britain and Saudi Arabia, with a share of 1.5 per cent or less.
But others are catching up: the Chinese alone invested a total of $96 million in nine transactions in 2021. They regularly make headlines with their holdings. Traditional companies such as Syngenta, Bally, Gategroup, SR Technics, Swissport, Eterna, Netstal, Swissmetal and Hotel Palace in Lucerne are already in the hands of the Chinese. Pharmaceutical company Alcon, health tech group Geberit, perfume maker Givaudan, consumer electronics group Logitech, chemical company Lonza, food group Nestlé and insurance company Zurich Zurich are almost all in foreign hands.
But political pressure to screen foreign investment is growing. A proposal by the Valais Central Council of States, Pete Ryder (59), called on the Federal Council in 2018 to protect “the Swiss economy through investment controls”. Six months ago, the Federal Council submitted an initial draft of the Investment Audit Law for consultation. The Investment Audit Act aims to pre-screen foreign investors when they take over Swiss companies. The greater risk is that states or foreign investors with state-linked structures use direct investment to achieve political goals.
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