By Holger Hansen
BERLIN (Reuters) – There is no desire among Deutsche Bank’s supervisory board members for a merger with rival Commerzbank in the near-term, a Deutsche board member said.
“At the moment conditions are definitely not ripe,” Frank Bsirske, a member of Deutsche Bank’s supervisory board and chairman of Germany’s Verdi trade union, said.
Merger speculation has heated up under Germany’s finance minister Olaf Scholz, who has spoken out in favour of strong banks in Germany and whose team has met frequently with executives of Deutsche, Commerzbank and major shareholders.
“There is currently no one on Deutsche Bank’s Supervisory Board who would want to merge with Commerzbank in the short term,” Bsirske told journalists in Berlin late on Thursday.
Bsirske’s comments are the most vocal yet from a member of the board that would eventually have to sign off on any merger.
Verdi fears massive job cuts would result if the two banks were to go ahead with a deal, following intense speculation of a possible tie-up between the two.
The banks and the Finance Ministry declined to comment.
A merger may make sense in a few years’ time but for now both banks have to focus on putting their own houses in order, Bsirske said, pointing to improving the investment bank, reducing complexity and enhancing infrastructure.
Asked about the possibility of a cross-border merger of Deutsche Bank with a foreign financial firm, Bsirske said it would be a good thing if they complemented one another.
But given Deutsche Bank’s low share price, the German bank would enter into any partnership as a minority partner. “And that’s certainly not the way to go at the moment,” he said.
“The CEO of Deutsche Bank, whom I think is a very good person for the role, has left no doubt about that. And this position is widely shared,” Bsirske said.
Asked if Scholz were pushing for a merger, Bsirske said he was pretty sure that the finance minister was holding talks to get an assessment of the situation.
“But I am also pretty sure that he is not trying to exert undue influence over business rationale and priorities that are currently being set in the banks. That would be completely counterproductive,” he said.
(Reporting by Holger Hansen; writing by Tom Sims; additional reporting by Andreas Framke and Hans Seidenstuecker; editing by Thomas Seythal and Alexander Smith)