SoftBank-backed Greensill Capital is on the brink. 50,000 jobs could be at risk
The future of Greensill Capital, a UK financial startup backed by SoftBank, has been thrown into doubt after German regulators shuttered a bank it operates, the latest twist in an unfolding corporate collapse that could put 50,000 jobs at risk.
Germany’s Federal Financial Supervisory Authority, or BaFin, said in a statement on Wednesday that it had ordered Greensill Bank “be closed for business with customers,” citing an “imminent risk that the bank will become over-indebted.”
Greensill was founded by Australian financier Lex Greensill in 2011 to shake up the world of supply chain finance, which involves making early payments to suppliers to help them finance their daily operations. The firm got a big boost in 2019, when Masa Son’s SoftBank Vision Fund invested $1.5 billion.
Greensill generated $420 million in revenue in 2019, a 79% jump compared to the previous year. Its clients include steel titan Sanjeev Gupta, and former UK Prime Minister David Cameron has served as an adviser.
But the company has come under intense scrutiny in recent days after two asset managers pulled the plug on funds that backed Greensill’s lending business. Credit Suisse said it would freeze $10 billion in funds due to “valuation uncertainty.” GAM Investments also said it would wind down its Greensill Supply Chain Finance fund, which had $842 million of assets.
Lawyers for Greensill on Monday told a court in Australia, where the company has been fighting to retain credit insurance, that trouble at the company could cause clients to default on their debts and jeopardize 50,000 jobs. Greensill is headquartered in London and has offices in cities such as New York, Sydney, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, Bogotá and Geneva.
Greensill said in a statement on Wednesday that it is in talks to sell “large parts” of its business and assets under management to a “leading global financial institution.” Private equity giant Apollo Global Management is looking to strike a deal, according to media reports. Apollo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The firm is also reportedly preparing to file for insolvency in the United Kingdom. Greensill declined to comment on whether it was exploring this step in addition to trying to hammer out a sale.
The move by BaFin could complicate any potential agreement. The regulator said a “forensic audit” of Greensill Bank had uncovered issues on its balance sheet tied to assets from GFG Alliance Group, the conglomerate that holds Gupta’s business interests.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Greensill Bank has at all times been transparent with its regulators and auditors about its approach to classifying assets and the methodologies for determining such classifications,” the company said in a statement to CNN Business.
The Financial Times reported that BaFin also filed a criminal complaint against Greensill Bank’s management for suspected balance sheet manipulation. The regulator declined to comment when asked about the report by CNN Business.