Two top shareholders skeptical of Deutsche-Commerzbank merger: sources


FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Two top shareholders in Deutsche Bank are skeptical about a merger with its rival Commerzbank, doubting that such a combination would guarantee higher returns, people familiar with the matter said.

Deutsche Bank’s chief executive Christian Sewing has agreed to hold tentative talks with local rival Commerzbank after Berlin, worried about Deutsche’s health, pushed for a merger.

Deutsche Bank has struggled to generate sustainable profits since the 2008 financial crisis and has paid billions of euros in penalties and fines.

Those in favor of a merger say a tie-up would create a bank with an equity market value of more than 24 billion euros ($27.00 billion), based on Friday’s closing share prices, and a 20 percent share of the German retail banking market.

But two of Deutsche’s top shareholders are not convinced.

A merger would cost time and money, and it would in no way guarantee better returns, a person close to a top-10 Deutsche Bank shareholder said on Monday.

“We’re still against such a merger and in principle don’t consider it a good idea,” the person said.

Before a decision is made on any merger, Deutsche must present a comprehensive plan for the future of the combined entity, a person familiar with the thinking of another top-10 investor said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Banners of Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are pictured in front of the German share price index, DAX board, at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

“We continue to be skeptical that a merger would make sense,” this person said.

Deutsche and Commerzbank declined to comment on Monday.

The two banks will make a decision about whether to pursue a merger within weeks, a separate source has said.

The views of the two major investors contrast with those of U.S. investor Cerberus Capital Management, a major shareholder in both banks. A person familiar with the matter said last month that Cerberus was open to a merger, increasing the chances of a tie-up.

Shares in Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank traded higher on Monday as German business warmed to the prospect of a merger between the country’s two largest banks.

Deutsche Bank shares were 3.3 percent higher, while Commerzbank shares were up 5.6 percent higher early afternoon in Frankfurt, outperforming Germany’s blue-chip DAX index which was 0.24 percent higher at 1301 GMT.

Berlin based BGA, the Federation of German wholesale, foreign trade and services, which represents large and mid-sized export businesses said a merger could make sense if it resulted in one German player surviving in the longer run.

Tougher rules and low interest rates have made it more difficult to find banks willing to provide German companies with export finance.

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“It is getting harder for companies to find a partner who can provide funding,” BGA President Holger Bingmann said.

“The business model of banks has come under pressure, and we would be glad if in the long run, to have at least one global player as a partner for our international business.”

Reporting by Edward Taylor, Andreas Framke and Tom Sims; Additional reporting by Rene Wagner in Berlin; Editing by Keith Weir and Jane Merriman

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