Fear again gripped the world’s financial sector as shares from renowned Switzerland bank, Credit Suisse nosedived.
Earlier this week, the global banking industry had been rocked over the collapse of California’s Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). This fresh news of Credit Suisse’s massive loss has thrown financial investors into anxiety.
The Swiss lender’s share plunged over 30% at one point on Wednesday to a record low of about 1.56 Swiss francs (£1.40) a share, after its top shareholder, the Saudi National Bank (SNB), ruled out providing it with fresh funding because of regulations that cap its stake – now 9.9% – at 10%.
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SNB’s chairman, Ammar Al Khudairy, told Reuters that Credit Suisse was “a very strong bank” and was unlikely to need more cash after raising 4bn Swiss francs (£3.59bn) to fund a major restructuring plan in autumn last year. However, his funding cap comments spooked investors, who feared it could limit emergency cash from investors in the Middle East.
That compounded panic about potential weaknesses across a global banking sector still reeling from SVB’s collapse as well as fears over continuing problems at the Swiss lender, which as Europe’s 17th largest lender by assets is far larger than SVB and deemed systemically important to the global financial system.
The Bank of England reiterated its statement that the UK banking system is not at risk and “remains safe, sound, and well-capitalised”. The staff at the Bank are continuing to monitor developments in the financial sector closely.
Stocks in many other European banks also plunged on Wednesday as traders took fright. However, it is important to remember that share prices reflect investor sentiment rather than the real strength of balance sheets.
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Market movements can cause customers to panic and pull cash, creating a run on deposits that is risky for smaller banks that rely more heavily on client cash. However, larger banks such as Credit Suisse are meant to be in a much stronger position, in part due to government rules and regulators’ annual stress testing brought in after the financial crisis.
In an attempt to calm fears, Credit Suisse chair Axel Lehmann said on Wednesday morning that government assistance “isn’t a topic” for the lender, adding: “We have strong capital ratios, a strong balance sheet. We already took the medicine.” The Financial Times reported unnamed sources suggesting the lender had appealed to both Finma and the Swiss National Bank for a public show of support in an apparent bid to shore up investor confidence.
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