Commerzbank to cut 9,600 jobs by 2020

The Commerzbank headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. (AP)
Updated 30 September 2016
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Commerzbank to cut 9,600 jobs by 2020

BERLIN: Germany’s second largest lender Commerzbank said it plans to cut 9,600 jobs, nearly a fifth of its workforce, by 2020 and withhold dividends to pay for a 1.1-billion-euro restructuring.
The Frankfurt-based firm added that the $1.23-billion plan, still to be agreed at a supervisory board meeting on Friday, would see it report a loss in the third quarter as it writes down the value of goodwill and other intangible assets.
But it forecasts a “slightly positive” bottom line for the whole of 2016.
Like other German banks, Commerzbank is fighting headwinds from low interest rates in the eurozone, tough regulation, intense competition and the arrival of new digital actors on the market.
Board members aim to achieve “sustainable profitability” by focusing on private and business banking customers while shrinking investment banking activities, it said in a statement.
“Profit volatility and risks from regulatory changes will be reduced and capital freed up for the core business” with the retreat from investment banking, it added.
To cover the costs of the restructuring, the bank said it would “cease dividend payments for the time being.”
Commerzbank reported a profit of 1.1 billion euros in 2015, and paid its first dividend since the 2008 financial crisis at 20 cents per share.
Shares in the bank lost 1.6 percent to trade at 5.90 euros in afternoon trading in Frankfurt, while the DAX 30 index of leading firms was up by 0.5 percent.
Commerzbank’s employee roster would shrink by roughly 9,600 — around a fifth of its current level of 51,300 — if the plan is put into action.
The size of the restructuring shows “how difficult the environment is for banks at the moment,” analyst Michael Seufert at Nord/LB bank said, pointing to Commerzbank’s restrained target of 6 percent return on capital after the changes.
“All banks are affected by the low interest rate environment” introduced by the European Central Bank in a bid to drive up inflation, he said, noting that European heavyweights Santander and ING are expected to present new strategies of their own in the coming days.
The ECB has set interest rates at historic lows, offered cheap loans to banks and spent hundreds of billions of euros on government and corporate bonds as it hunts for ways to push up growth and inflation in the 19-nation currency bloc.
German banks have complained loudly about the impact of the low interest rates on their profit margins.
Commerzbank managers predict that the restructuring will create savings of 6.5 billion euros per year and allow them to create 2,300 new jobs in “growth areas” at the bank.
The German state remains a shareholder in Commerzbank to the tune of 15 percent after coming to the lender’s rescue in 2008.
Chief executive Martin Zielke in August batted away rumors that he was considering a tie-up with Deutsche Bank, Germany’s biggest lender and a historic Frankfurt rival.
Deutsche is itself going through a painful restructuring that will see it slash almost 9,000 jobs worldwide and 200 branches in home market Germany.
The once-proud institution is laboring under a burden of around 8,000 legal cases worldwide, including a $14-billion demand from the US Department of Justice over its role in the subprime mortgage crisis.
On Wednesday, the German government strongly denied speculation that it was preparing a rescue plan for Deutsche in the event it faces a US fine that its legal provisions of $5.5 billion are too small to cover.


India names Modi demonetization backer as cenbank head

Visitors are seen standing next to a logo of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) at the bank's head office in Mumbai on December 5, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 12 December 2018
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India names Modi demonetization backer as cenbank head

  • Das — a high-profile backer of Modi’s controversial 2016 move to scrap high-value currency notes, known as demonetization

MUMBAI: Ex-finance ministry official Shaktikanta Das took charge of the Reserve Bank of India on Tuesday, in a swift appointment expected to ease a dispute with the government as it pushes for looser credit rules ahead of a general election.
The announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration came just a day after Urjit Patel resigned from the post, following months of clashes between the two institutions over lending curbs and how to deploy the central bank’s surplus reserves.
Pressure on the RBI to take immediate steps to boost the economy, including a transfer of the excess reserves to the government, could well rise after Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered likely election losses in three key states on Tuesday.
Das — a high-profile backer of Modi’s controversial 2016 move to scrap high-value currency notes, known as demonetization — will serve a three-year term as governor, effective immediately.
RBI watchers said they expected the 61-year-old, who retired last year as secretary of the department of economic affairs having previously served on the RBI’s board, to put relations between the Mumbai-based bank and the finance ministry in New Delhi on a stabler footing.
Investors will also look closely at his ability to hold up against outside influences after recent efforts by the Modi government to gain greater control over the central bank’s regulatory powers.
“The incoming governor will have to work hard to prove that he has his own independent mind,” said Deepak Jasani, head of retail research at Hdfc Securities.
Investors said any openly political appointee with little macro-economic experience, would not sit well with financial markets that already sold off following the BJP’s election setbacks.
But Ashish Vaidya, executive director and head of trading at DBS Bank in Mumbai, said he expected India’s debt and currency markets to react positively.
“He is a bureaucrat...We expect the RBI to take a pragmatic approach under him, be pro-growth and change its stance going ahead given that inflation has come off sharply,” he said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told Reuters partner ANI that the government acknowledged the bank’s independence.
“Government will fully support the RBI and coordinate with it in areas where consultations of government are required to make sure India’s economy benefits from both government policy decisions and areas which fall within domain of the RBI,” ANI tweeted, quoting Jaitley.

SWIFT APPOINTMENT
Pronab Sen, India’s former chief statistician, said he was surprised by the speed of Das’s appointment.
“If you have a situation where a position as important as the governor of the RBI is filled within 24 hours of the resignation of the incumbent, that will raise eyebrows,” Sen told Reuters.
“People are going to say, clearly this guy had already been identified. And, the situation was created where Urjit Patel had to quit.”
Das — widely seen as a contender for the top RBI job after Raghuram Rajan’s term ended in 2016 — did not answer calls from Reuters to his mobile phone.
RBI officials who have worked with him closely said Das was likely to be more inclusive in the decision-making process than Patel.
“He has a balanced approach and is good at consensus building,” said a former deputy governor. .”..We have had our fair share of differences. But he has always been solution-centric rather than festering on those differences.”
Das worked in the finance ministry under both Modi’s government and the previous coalition led by the main opposition Congress party and was also involved in drafting the Insolvency and Bankruptcy code aimed at protecting small investors.
He came under fire for his pro-demonetization stance and was the most vocal bureaucrat at the time Modi withdrew the high-value bank notes to fight tax evasion.
Das last year criticized the methodology of global rating agencies and sought a sovereign rating upgrade for India.