Kohl calls inquiry into crisis at Schneider

BONN - The German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, yesterday asked the Economics Minister, Gunter Rexrodt, to investigate the crisis at the property group Jurgen Schneider, writes Steve Crawshaw.

The sudden disappearance at the weekend of the group's founder, Jurgen Schneider, leaving an estimated DM9bn ( pounds 3.6bn) of debts, is to be discussed today by representatives of more than 40 creditor banks. They are to meet the remaining members of the board, including Mr Schneider's brother Joachim, in Frankfurt.

Ways of saving as many jobs as possible and continuing existing building projects where possible are to be discussed at the meeting, which will take place at the invitation of the Schneider rump board. It is unclear, however, how much can be saved.

Those involved were anxious yesterday to play down the extent of the crisis. Deutsche Bank, the Schneider group's largest creditor, which is said to have an exposure of DM1.3bn, emphasised that the bank 'is not the financier of the Schneider group'. It said all eight sites in which the bank was involved were secured by mortgage.

The mayor of Leipzig, Hinrich Lehmann-Grube, appealed to the banks to protect the many small and medium-sized businesses that will be affected by a collapse. It is reckoned that several thousand jobs could be lost in Leipzig alone.