Commerzbank CEO Says He’d Like to See Germany Exit Its Stake
Commerzbank AG Chief Executive Officer Manfred Knof said he’d like to see Germany exit a stake it took in the lender as part of a financial crisis era bailout.
“As a private bank we of course believe that it would be better if we were independent at a later stage and the state was to exit at some point,” Knof said at a conference on Wednesday. “But that’s an issue where we will have to wait.”
More than a decade after the credit crunch shook confidence in the global financial system, Germany could be approaching the divestment of its 15% stake in the lender as the country prepares for a change in government. Commerzbank has been seen as a perennial takeover candidate, meaning an exit by the German state could provide a catalyst for European bank mergers.
Knof said he has “also read all the stories and speculation” about a possible takeover of Commerzbank, but that he is focused on raising profits to ensure the bank can remain independent. He cited the increase in the bank’s share price “from a low level” over the last year as a sign that it’s on the right track.
Germany’s political landscape is set to be redrawn after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats lost federal elections earlier this year. Free Democrat leader Christian Lindner, who has pledged to unload the government’s stake in Commerzbank, looks set to be the next Finance Minister.
Speaking at a conference organized by Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Knof said he hasn’t yet spoken to Lindner or other potential figures in the next government. He said the bank works “very well” with the two members of its supervisory board appointed by the state.
Knof took over Commerzbank at the beginning of the year after his predecessor was ousted because of an overhaul plan that key shareholders viewed as not sufficiently ambitious. The CEO said his plans have the backing of the supervisory board and the government and that other shareholders like Cerberus Capital are also counting on him to deliver.
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