Swiss franc announcement hammers West Ham sponsor Alpari

Heavy client losses forced it into insolvency

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The Independent Online

West Ham shirt sponsor and currency broker Alpari UK was blown up by the Swiss National Bank’s currency bombshell as heavy client losses forced it into insolvency.

The SNB’s dramatic move to scrap the currency cap which kept the "Swissie" pegged at €1.20 - just days after saying it was a policy cornerstone - sent a tidal wave of cash into the franc, sending it surging against the euro.

The stunning move has sent several brokers into a tailspin including the Hammer’s main shirt sponsor Alpari.

The firm blamed "exceptional volatility and extreme lack of liquidity" for huge client losses.

"This has forced Alpari (UK) to confirm today that it has entered into insolvency," it said.

Alpari was set up in 1998, and the UK arm opened in 2004.

Two other major currency brokers were crippled.

With virtually the entire market betting the cap would stay, the sudden reverse and resultant plunge in the euro against the franc exposed the biggest currency broker in the US - New York-listed FXCM.

The firm, which has 900 staff and handled $1.4 trillion (£920 billion) in trades in the final quarter of last year, took a $225 million hit.

The blow has put the firm potentially in breach of its regulatory capital requirements and it is "actively discussing" alternatives to boost capital levels.

There was even worse news for New Zealand broker Excel, which was forced to shut down after the staggering policy U-turn obliterated its capital.

The company said: "The majority of clients in a franc position were on the losing side and sustained losses amounting to far greater than their account equity."

Among other UK spread-betters and currency traders, the reaction was more mixed.

Market leader IG Group took a £30 million hit, and Peter Cruddas' rival CMC Markets is also likely to have suffered.

It is understood that AIM-listed London Capital Group, which trades as Capital Spreads, took losses of up to £1.7 million.

Other smaller players were unaffected.  ETX Capital said the firm was experiencing a profitable January after a very solid 2014 and it is understood that Spreadex had a "minimal exposure".

One industry source said: "If you were hedged properly, the clients and the counterparties take the lion’s share of the losses."

But the hammering of the Swiss stock market ran into a second session after a 9 per cent plunge yesterday as investors braced themselves for a huge export blow.

The Swiss market fell another 4 per cent with bank Julius Baer and Swiss watchmaker Swatch among the biggest fallers.

The pound sank 2.3 cents against the Swissie to Swfr1.3267 today and the euro fell another two cents to Swfr1.0132.