The Council of States says no to the privatization of PostFinance

The decision not to get involved was unanimous. The National has yet to decide. As a systemically important bank with almost 3 million customers and assets under management of 120 billion francs, PostFinance is one of the leading financial institutions in Switzerland.

However, it is not authorized to provide loans and mortgages, which limits its ability to build equity. Its long-term viability is under threat.

The government has therefore proposed lifting the ban on granting loans and mortgages and, as a second step, privatizing Postfinance, a subsidiary that is now 100 percent owned by Post and 100 percent owned by the federal government. This solution should allow him to generate industry-beating returns. But the senators didn’t want it.

Universal postal service in question

Hans Wicki (PLR/NW) stated on behalf of the committee that the draft revision of the Postal Organization Act does not offer satisfactory solutions to deal with the development of the postal service. We must first get an overview and clarify the question of the universal postal service before we can regulate its financing.

A privatization of PostFinance would mean its separation from Swiss Post. This would call into question the current close cooperation between PostFinance and the other units of the yellow giant, especially in the area of ​​basic postal services and payment transactions.

A commission of experts that presented a report on the basic service last February considers it “essential that basic service tasks are defined before a decision is made on the partial or total privatization of PostFinance”. Because cash transactions must be part of the basic service as long as there is no digital means of payment with comparable properties.

Different reasons for not

Right and left have given different reasons for their opposition. Hansjörg Knecht (UDC/AG) does not want public Postfinance to compete with private banks in the credit and mortgage market. Because the privatization would only take place in a second stage, a stage that resembles a “Trojan horse”.

For Paul Rechsteiner (PS/SG), privatization has more disadvantages than advantages. Low interest rates were the starting point for this review. But inflation is back and interest rates are starting to rise again. Postfinance does not need privatization, but a clear position from the Federal Council on its business.

The privatization would affect customers, but also the 50,000 employees of the post office, stated Stefan Engler (Middle/GR). For him, it is up to Parliament to define La Poste’s public service. We certainly have to take technological developments into account, but three criteria must be observed: national coverage of services, equal quality for all and services at an affordable price.

Full of pitfalls

Federal Councilor Simonetta Sommaruga was aware from the start that it would be difficult to find a majority for this project given the opposition from all sides. Now it’s about the realignment of the universal service, discussions that promise to be difficult. The Federal Council will decide on the expert report by the summer.

In the same context, the Federal Council would like the Confederation to temporarily grant Swiss Post a capitalization guarantee of CHF 1.7 billion so that Postfinance can meet the capital requirements according to “Too big to fail”. If you don’t get involved in the matter, this component will also be postponed indefinitely.

#Council #States #privatization #PostFinance

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