With much of the world’s attention understandably focussed on the decline of Deutsche Bank, one would be forgiven for not noticing the plight of another major German bank – Commerzbank.
Shares in Commerzbank share prices have fallen nearly 2% this morning after Germany’s second largest bank announced that it will make nearly 10,000 redundancies as well as suspending dividends as part of a major firefighting effort to improve the lender’s profitability. The large scale restructuring programme comes after a recent decline in earnings raised concerns about the bank’s viability.
These measures are part of a plan which, at face value, does seem viable and could indeed work. However, given the precarious position the global finance industry finds itself in at the moment, plans to cut jobs and suspend dividend payments are unlikely to be received with much confidence.
Indeed, Commerzbank paid dividends of €0.20 euros per share in May 2015, only its first dividend payment since being bailed out by the German government in 2008. For the bank to suspend them so soon indicates that profitability at Commerzbank is a longstanding issue and one that may not be so easy to solve.
In a world of low-to-negative interest rates and low growth it has become increasingly difficult for struggling banks to raise profits and avoid crisis. Banks will need to depend on large capital reserves to survive these turbulent times and it appears as though many just aren’t in a position to ride out the current situation.
Deutsche Bank’s reaction to the $14billion fine from the US Department of Justice is a clear sign of the issues faced by the world’s banks and these problems are not reserved to Deutsche Bank. Branch closures and redundancies have become commonplace, with Wells Fargo’s 5,300 redundancies another to make the news.
Banks are struggling to turn their situations around and another crash seems increasingly likely, with Deutsche Bank widely expected to set the ball rolling. Unlike 2008, however, the German government has already stated that it will not intervene to save its banks from collapse. Left with little choice, Merkel has opted for a policy that could have a disastrous impact on the entire European banking system.