Personally i would love it to happen. We would get rid of two evils: The Vampires of Wall Street and the eternally broke Deutsche Bank. DB problems, particularly the litigation problems,would eat the Vampires of Wall Street’s (Goldman Sachs) capital in no time. As the French would say: Bon debarras! (Good riddance!)
(GUA) German chancellor also shares views on Brexit and climate crisis in interview
Europe must reposition itself to stand up to the challenges posed by its three big global rivals, China, Russia and the US, Angela Merkel has said before her final European election as German chancellor.
Facing challenges that range from Russian interference in elections to China’s economic clout and the US’s monopoly over digital services, Europe needs to get better at putting up a united front, Merkel said in a wide-ranging interview shared with the Guardian.
“There is no doubt that Europe needs to reposition itself in a changed world,” Merkel said in a conversation in her office in Berlin. “The old certainties of the post-war order no longer apply.”
She added: “They [China, Russia and the US] are forcing us, time and again, to find common positions. That is often difficult given our different interests. But we do get this done – think, for example, of our policy regarding the conflict in Ukraine.
“Our policies on Africa, too, now follow a common strategy, which a few years ago would have been unthinkable. So we keep putting one foot in front of the other. However, our political power is not yet commensurate with our economic strength.”
In the interview, conducted by journalists from the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the Guardian as part of the Europa newspaper alliance, Merkel also said:
Brexit was the biggest European turning point of recent years, but that the ball was now in the UK’s court: “In order for the UK to leave the EU, there needs to be a parliamentary majority in London for, rather than merely against, something.”
Generating enough economic wealth to tackle the environmental crisis remained her “greatest worry”.
Germany was aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050, but this was “a tremendous challenge”.
What is the Europa project?
The interview comes at a pivotal moment in Merkel’s 14 years as chancellor. Her party, the Christian Democratic Union, faces the prospect of significant losses in the May 23-26 poll, though observers believe she remains popular enough to see out her fourth term through to 2021.
The elections are a chance for populists in Germany and across the continent to build on their mounting popularity, borne of greater inequality, growing precariousness and a disenchantment with politics in Brussels and in member states.
“Many people are concerned about Europe, including myself,” Merkel said. “This means I feel even more duty-bound to join others in making sure that Europe has a future.”
She said her peers needed to stop toying with populist gestures, and categorically ruled out opening up her centre-right bloc of parties in the European parliament to far-right populists such as Matteo Salvini.
“This is indeed a time when we need to fight for our principles and fundamental values,” Merkel said. “The heads of state and government will decide how far to let populism go or if we are ultimately willing to take on joint responsibility.
“Simply stating that we’ve enjoyed seven decades of peace is no longer enough to justify the European project. Without forward-looking arguments to justify Europe, the European peace project would also be in greater jeopardy than one may think.”
Merkel also stressed the urgency of the global environmental crisis. A former environment minister in Helmut Kohl’s cabinet, Merkel recalled biodiversity conferences she attended in the mid-1990s, and said: “It is heartbreaking to see how the situation has worsened in so many ways.
“There clearly is a lack of consistent political action, on a global scale. What is key for being able to act in all spheres, including environmental protection, is for us to be economically successful. That is my greatest worry.”
She reiterated her aim for Germany to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, but said that for European countries to meet the net-zero carbon emissions target set by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and eight other leaders last week, they would need to reopen a fraught debate about carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
“Nine countries intend to attain climate neutrality by 2050, whereby they would on average no longer emit any CO2,” Merkel said of Macron’s initiative. “I am firmly convinced that this can only be done if one is willing to capture and store CO2. The countries in question do not deny this. The method is called CCS – and for many in Germany it is a highly charged term.”
CCS is controversial because critics see it as an expensive subsidy that would ultimately perpetuate rather than reduce reliance on fossil fuels. “There are two possibilities – you can either store carbon, or you can reforest on a large scale,” she said. “In the Netherlands, for example, the latter is not an option. There, CO2 could be pumped into empty gas fields. We could do the same in Germany – but if I wanted to implement this policy here with the stroke of a pen, then people would be right to ask me how realistic that is.”
Merkel would not say whether the EU would grant Britain another extension if Theresa May’s government failed to pass her withdrawal agreement by the end of October deadline.
And, asked whether by the autumn Brexit might be being discussed by new leaders in both London and Berlin, she again refused to be drawn, answering: “Should there be anything to negotiate, the European commission will do so on behalf of the 27 member states, as it has done so far.”
FRANKFURT/LONDON (Reuters) – UniCredit has stepped up preparations for a potential bid for Germany’s Commerzbank by drafting in investment bankers including a former top German official, three people familiar with the matter said.FILE PHOTO: A sign for an ATM of Commerzbank is seen next to the headquarters of Deutsche Bank (R) in Frankfurt, Germany, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo
The Italian bank had engaged Lazard and its banker Joerg Asmussen, the former German deputy finance minister, along with JP Morgan for a possible takeover, the sources said, raising the prospect of a deal that could allow UniCredit to pivot away from its struggling domestic market.
UniCredit said in statement responding to the Reuters report that it wanted to clarify that no banking mandate had been signed in relation to any potential market operation.
The bank reiterated that its current business plan is based on organic growth and a new plan will be unveiled on Dec. 3.
Although it is unclear whether and when a bid could be made, UniCredit has long been interested in expanding in Germany, said several sources familiar with management’s thinking. It already owns HVB, a large German lender based in Munich.
But the Italian bank, which has been concentrating on its own turnaround plan, had been waiting on the outcome of merger talks between Commerzbank and its larger Frankfurt neighbor, Deutsche Bank.
Those talks unraveled in recent weeks, placing Commerzbank back on the agenda for UniCredit Chief Executive Jean Pierre Mustier, who will be running the rule over a target worth about 9.3 billion euros ($10.4 billion) compared with UniCredit’s market capitalization of 24.4 billion euros.
Commerzbank shares rose on the news, climbing 4.7% by 1400 GMT, with UniCredit shares down 2.4%.
UniCredit’s advances come as Dutch bank ING Groep has also shown interest in Commerzbank, sources familiar with the matter said. One person with knowledge of those informal talks described them as “intensive”.
Mustier has hired Lazard in the hope that Asmussen can lobby for the deal with finance minister Olaf Scholz. Both have roots in the German Social Democrat Party.
Asmussen, who studied business administration at Milan’s Bocconi University, has previously served on the executive board of the European Central Bank (ECB) and as state secretary at the Federal Ministry of labor and social affairs.
UniCredit, JPMorgan, Lazard, Commerzbank and Germany’s finance ministry declined to comment while Asmussen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
ING also declined to comment.
The success of any approach will hinge in part on the German government, which owns a 15 percent stake in Commerzbank, stemming from a bailout during the financial crisis. Some officials had hoped to keep Commerzbank in German hands, which is why they pushed for a deal with Deutsche Bank.
One German official said the government would be open to a merger between Commerzbank and a foreign European rival, such as UniCredit.Slideshow (2 Images)
But a deal that would tie one of Germany’s biggest banks to debt-laden Italy could ultimately prove hard to sell in Berlin.
If a takeover does emerge, it would be one of the largest deals involving banks across European borders since the financial crisis. Such mergers are still hard to pull off because laws and regulations still vary from country to country despite the single market, bankers say.
However, any initiation of talks is sure to ruffle feathers at Commerzbank, where employees – fearful for their jobs – had overwhelmingly opposed a tie-up with Deutsche Bank. Unions had forecast as many as 30,000 lost jobs.
Analysts at Citi said that any tie up with UniCredit could make it cheaper for the bank to refinance its operations and trigger other cost savings.
UniCredit last week announced that it was reducing its exposure to Italy to boost its financial strength, with measures including cuts to its portfolio of Italian government bonds.
That move could strengthen prospects for an acquisition in Germany, where UniCredit’s high exposure to Italy is seen as a barrier to a deal, several bankers said.
UniCredit had 54 billion euros of Italian government bonds at the end of March.
Italian UniCredit shareholders are in favor of any deal that can boost its market value, but some want the bank to retain its Italian identity, a person close to the matter said.
Mustier last week said that the bank was very proud of being listed and headquartered in the euro-zone’s third-biggest economy.
(GUA) Arrests in Germany, Brazil and US relate to sale of drugs, stolen data and malicious software
German police have shut down one of the world’s largest illegal online markets in the so-called dark web and arrested the three men allegedly running it, prosecutors said on Friday.
The “Wall Street Market” (WSM) site enabled trade in cocaine, heroin, cannabis and amphetamines as well as stolen data, fake documents and malicious software.
The encrypted platform had more than 1m customer accounts, over 5,000 registered sellers and more than 60,000 sales offers, according to Frankfurt prosecutors and affidavits filed by US prosecutors in a federal court in Los Angeles.
“WSM operated like a conventional e-commerce website, such as eBay and Amazon. However, its sole existence was geared to the trafficking of contraband,” US prosecutors said.
Three German men alleged to be administrators of the site were arrested, while a fourth man – a Brazilian who, prosecutors said, acted as an online mediator for the website – was arrested in Brazil.
Klaus-Martin Frost, Jonathan Kalla and Tibo Lousee are accused of running Wall Street Market for nearly three years, providing a darknet platform for the sale of narcotics, counterfeit goods and hacking software to 1.1 million customers.
The Germans, known to investigators by the monikers “coder420”, “Kronos” and “TheOne”, also face charges in Germany.
“While they lurk in the deepest corners of the internet, this case shows that we can hunt down these criminals wherever they hide,” US attorney Nick Hanna said in a written statement announcing the charges.
Among the site’s top vendors were two people based in Los Angeles: “Ladyskywalker”, who sold opiates such as fentanyl, hydrocodone and oxycodone, and “Platinum45”, who dealt in methamphetamine, oxycodone and a combined amphetamine prescription drug marketed as Adderall.
The people operating those accounts have also been arrested, according to the criminal complaint. Their names have not been made public.
The site was accessed through the encrypted Tor network to shield customers from detection and transactions were made with the cryptocurrencies bitcoin and Monero.
It offered interfaces in six languages – English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish – and numerous separate categories for merchandise, including drugs, jewellery, equipment and support for credit card fraud, software and malware, among others. One vendor category, according to the court filings, was simply named “fraud”.
Like legal online marketplaces, buyers could search by product, product popularity, vendor ratings, payment type and price. The operators allegedly received commissions of between 2% and 6% of the sales value.
The police operation started after Finnish authorities shut down the illegal Tor trade site Silkkitie (Valhalla) earlier this year, said Europol. This led some Finnish narcotics traders to move to WSM.
In April, the WSM administrators were apparently alarmed at the sudden surge of customers and, the court documents said, enacted an exit plan that involved freezing the escrow accounts and customer wallets and taking out all the virtual currency held in them at the time – estimated at $11m (£8.3m).
That spurred investigators to act, and on 23 and 24 April they arrested the three German suspects, aged 22 to 31, in the states of Baden-Württemberg, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia.
They also seized servers, more than €550,000 (£470,000) in cash, and hundreds of bitcoin and Monero, as well as several vehicles and a gun.
Ever since it became apparent that the Deutsche Bank-Commerzbank tie-up wasn’t meant to be after all, despite incessant lobbying from the German Finance Ministry over the objections of pretty much every other stakeholder, both Deutsche Bank shareholders as well as the bank’s still-relatively-new CEO have probably been wondering: What’s next for Europe’s least-favorite perennially troubled megabank?
Well, as DB’s management team scrambles to close a deal with UBS to merge the Swiss bank’s once-storied asset-management business with DWS, the asset-management arm that functions as a separate corporate entity controlled by Deutsche, Bloomberg and the FT have effectively confirmed what most shareholders have been hoping for: Despite Sewing and Chairman Paul Achleitner’s insistence that the investment bank is vital to Deutsche’s future, it’s probably time for Deutsche to take an axe to its long-suffering investment bank (the bank has already reportedly been considering the ring-fencing of its most toxic businesses and assets in a shadow ‘bad bank’).
Specifically, the bank’s equities business (and more specifically, it’s US equities trading business) will likely be on the chopping block.
But even a restructuring would be difficult, coming with many up-front costs, according to analysts quoted by Bloomberg:
With a Commerzbank deal gone, Deutsche Bank’s only move is “a more radical investment bank restructure, with a potential exit from the U.S. region and the equities product line,” Citigroup Inc. analysts wrote in a note on April 29. Such a move would be difficult. Restructuring costs would hit upfront, and revenue would be squeezed at first, potentially exacerbating rather than fixing Deutsche Bank’s core problem. In any case, that option seems off the table. Achleitner and Sewing say the trading and corporate finance businesses are crucial. “Every executive has to constantly adjust to a changing market environment,” Achleitner told the Financial Times. “But in this regard, we are not talking about strategy, we are talking about execution” of the existing plan.
As if the bank needed another incentive, Reuters reported a few days back that Deutsche’s US operation – which would be greatly curtailed or shuttered entirely in a restructuring – is once again in danger of failing one of the Fed’s stress tests.
In a detailed insider account of the factors that inspired Sewing’s decision to walk away from merger talks (according to the FT, though it had been announced as a mutual decision, the idea to walk away was first broached by Sewing and his team, who argued that financing the deal would be too burdensome).
As one regulator put it:
“Calling the merger off wasn’t a strategic decision,” a top regulator said. “They could just not afford the deal.” “Without the one-off [accounting and tax] effects the transaction would have triggered, the deal stacked up,” the person said, adding it was “unsettling…[that] both banks do not have enough firepower to bring forward a merger that makes strategic sense.” Deutsche disputes that it lacked firepower to do the deal.
But while Commerzbank’s steady corporate business will make it an ideal acquisition target for another European lender (UniCredit and ING have reportedly been weighing bids), DB has no obvious path to finally shed the mantle of ‘most hated bank in Europe’.
Germany has no plans to stop Chinese telecom giant Huawei from participating in the build up of ultra-high speed internet, known as 5G, in the country if it complies with security requirements.
Jochen Homann, president of the country’s telecommunications regulator, told the FT newspaper that no equipment suppliers, including Huawei, “should, or may, be specifically excluded.”
Homann told the FT that his agency has yet to see evidence that Huawei poses a security risk.
One of Huawei’s booths at MWC Barcelona 2019.Elizabeth Schulze | CNBC
Germany has no plans to stop Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from participating in build up of ultra-high speed internet, known as 5G, in the country if it complies with all the security requirements, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.
The president of the Bundesnetzagentur, the country’s telecommunications regulator, told the FT that no equipment suppliers, including Huawei, “should, or may, be specifically excluded.”
Jochen Homann told the newspaper that his agency has yet to see evidence that Huawei poses a security risk. He added that if Huawei meets the security requirements imposed by the regulator, it can take part in the 5G network roll-out.
Huawei is up against mounting worries that its technology will enable Chinese espionage through those high-speed mobile networks. The United States banned Huawei from selling 5G networking equipment to U.S. firms. Other countries have followed suit, including Australia, Japan and New Zealand. Huawei claims the security concerns are unfounded.
In an interview with CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal on Saturday, Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei said his company will comply with European cybersecurity standards and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws that govern the European Union.
“Germany proposed the establishment of a unified global convention that would bar all equipment vendors from installing backdoors, and require them to sign a no-spy agreement,” he said, referring to a potential “no spy” deal between Berlin and Beijing.WATCH NOWVIDEO01:13Huawei CEO: We support Germany’s proposed ‘no-spy agreement’
In 5G networks, the emphasis is more on software instead of hardware. That means an equipment maker may be able to install lines of code, called “backdoors,” that let it access what’s going on inside the network — such as monitoring data transfers, tracking locations of cell phone users, or eavesdropping on conversations.
“We endorse unified global standards that make installing backdoors a crime … we want to sign such an agreement because we think it’s the right thing to do,” Ren said.
Ren added that Huawei will invest more than $100 billion in research and development over the next five years: “We will build the simplest networks, ensure cyber security, and protect user privacy.”
FRANK RUMPENHORST | DPA | Getty ImagesPicture taken on March 17, 2019 shows the headquarters of German banks Deutsche Bank (L) and Commerzbank in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany.
Commerzbank shares rose following a report that UniCredit stands ready to make a rival bid for the bank if merger talks with fellow German lender Deutsche Bank fail.
The Financial Times, citing people familiar with the matter, reported Thursday that the Italian bank was prepared to make a multibillion-euro offer for a sizable stake in Commerzbank.
Commerzbank would be merged with German Unicredit subsidiary HypoVereinsbank, the FT reported, and the combined entity would be based in Germany while UniCredit maintains its headquarters and listing in Milan.
Shares of Commerzbank were up around 3 percent in morning trade on the back of the news.
Commerzbank declined to comment. UniCredit was not immediately available when contacted by CNBC.
While the German government’s stance on this remains unclear, it has been speculated that a Deutsche Bank-Commerzbank tie-up would be seen as favorable as it would create a domestic banking champion. A deal with UniCredit would mean a foreign lender taking control of Germany’s second-largest bank.
Commerzbank’s executive board is reportedly set to decide whether to intensify discussions with Deutsche Bank — or back away from a deal — on April 9.
BERLIN (Reuters) – Commerzbank’s executive board is due to decide on April 9 whether to intensify merger talks with Deutsche Bank or back away from a deal, German business weekly Wirtschaftswoche said on Wednesday.
The magazine said Commerzbank’s management is scheduled to discuss how to proceed in the merger talks during its next regular session, Wirtschaftswoche added, citing company sources and an internal memo.
Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank declined to comment.
Upon initiating formal talks with Deutsche Bank on March 17, Commerzbank chief executive officer Martin Zielke told bankers that management aimed for a decision on whether to go forward with a merger in the next two to three weeks, two sources with knowledge of the matter said at the time.
In a memo to employees days later, Zielke wrote: “I can promise you that we will strive to keep this period of uncertainty as short as possible and we will work hard to ensure that a decision is reached soon.”
Deutsche Bank supervisory board chairman Paul Achleitner said that the banks aim to announce more concrete steps on the merger by late April.
France and Germany are to share the rotating presidency of the UN security council (UNSC). Unlike France, Germany serves as a non-permanent member of the UNSC. German foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Monday the country planned on using its role to “strengthen long-term conflict prevention.” France previously rejected German appeals to convert its permanent UNSC seat into an EU one.
(ShareCast) Shares in Deutsche Bank have slipped following reports that the bank is considering raising as much as €10bn as part of ongoing merger negotiations with smaller rival Commerzbank.
Sources familiar with the talks were quoted as saying that between €3bn and €10bn of extra capital could be raised by issuing fresh equity. Such a move would help assuage concerns about whether Germany’s biggest lender has enough capital, according to theFinancial Times. The newspaper said that at the end upper end of the range, the capital increase would equal about 40% of the two bank’s combined market capitalisation.
But investors, many of which have yet to be convinced about the economies of a deal, were not convinced, and sent the stock 3% lower by 1230 GMT. Commerzbank was off 2%.
Further depressing the shares was a report by Reuters, which alleged first-quarter trading at Deutsche Bank had been weak. It quoted an unnamed source familiar with the business, who claimed: “January was catastrophic, February was bad and March got slowly better.”
A tie-up between the two banks has long been speculated, and both sides finally confirmed merger talks were underway earlier this month.
Deutsche Bank is a leading player in the global banking sector but in recent years has endured boardroom battles, been fined for failing to prevent money laundering and has seen persistent declines in revenues.
Commerzbank, meanwhile, is seen as vulnerable to foreign takeover, and it is understood there was mounting political pressure for the two banks to consider a tie up.
Deutsche Bank told the FT it was “much too early at this stage of the due diligence process to make a credible assessment if there is any potential capital need at all”.
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank confirmed on Sunday they were in talks about a merger, prompting labor union concerns about possible job losses and questions from analysts about the merits of a combination.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
Germany’s two largest banks issued short statements following separate meetings of their management boards, a person with knowledge of the matter said, indicating a quickening of pace in the merger process, although both also warned that a deal was far from certain.
“In light of arising opportunities, the management board of Deutsche Bank has decided to review strategic options,” Deutsche said in its statement.
Christian Sewing, Deutsche Bank’s chief executive, told employees that Deutsche still aimed “to remain a global bank with a strong capital markets business… with a global network”.
Sewing said many factors could still prevent a merger and a Deutsche spokesman said the talks were expected to last some time. Commerzbank described the outcome as open.
However, formal disclosure of talks appeared to boost the chances of concluding a deal first floated in 2016 before the banks opted to focus on restructuring.
The German government has pushed for a combination given concerns about the health of Deutsche, which has struggled to generate sustainable profits since the 2008 financial crisis.
The government, which holds a stake of more than 15 percent in Commerzbank following a bailout, wants a national banking champion to support its export-led economy, best known for cars and machine tools.
Berlin also wants to keep Commerzbank’s speciality – the funding of medium-sized companies, the backbone of the economy – in German hands.
“SHAKY ZOMBIE BANK”
A merged bank would likely be the third largest in Europe after HSBC and BNP Paribas, with roughly 1.8 trillion euros ($2.04 trillion) in assets, such as loans and investments, and a market value of about 25 billion euros.
However, sceptics questioned the wisdom of a merger.
“We do not see a national champion here, but a shaky zombie bank that could lead to another billion-euro grave for the German state. Why should we take this risk?” said Gerhard Schick, finance activist and ex-member of the German parliament.
While the banks had not publicly commented on merger talks until Sunday, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz last Monday confirmed that there were negotiations.
On Sunday, the ministry acknowledged the announcement and said it remained in regular contact with all parties.
However, there were signs of political opposition.
Hans Michelbach, a lawmaker from the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), urged the government to sell its 15 percent stake in Commerzbank before a deal.
“There may not be an ownership by the federal government in a merged big bank indirectly through an old stake. We do not need a German State Bank AG,” he told Reuters.
The supervisory boards of both banks are scheduled to hold long-planned meetings on Thursday, four people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The status of merger negotiations is expected to be discussed.
A merged bank would have one fifth of the German retail banking market. Together the two banks currently employ 140,000 people worldwide – 91,700 in Deutsche and 49,000 in Commerzbank.
Germany’s Verdi labor union on Sunday renewed its objections to a merger, saying that tens of thousands of jobs were at risk and that a tie-up added no value.
Jan Duscheck, head of the union’s banking division and a member of Deutsche’s supervisory board, said the union would raise its concerns on both banks’ oversight bodies.
U.S. authorities investigate FAA approval of Boeing plane: WSJ
Deutsche emerged unscathed from the financial crash but later lost its footing. German officials fear a recession or big fine could derail the bank’s fragile recovery.
Other than Deutsche, Commerzbank is Germany’s only remaining big publicly-traded bank, after a series of mergers.
Commerzbank has also struggled to rebound, and German officials say it is vulnerable to a foreign takeover. If an international rival snapped it up, that would increase competition for Deutsche on its home turf.
Initial reaction among analysts to a deal was skeptical.
There will only be limited benefits of adding Commerzbank’s clientele of retail and small and medium businesses to Deutsche, said David Hendler, an independent analyst at New York-based Viola Risk Advisors, which specializes in risk management.
“It doesn’t change the fact that Germany is not getting a flagship bank that can compete on the world stage. It’s still a stunted bank with a lot of problems,” Hendler said.
One of the biggest risks is how to fill what one German official has told Reuters will be a multi-billion-euro financial hole because a merger could trigger an adjustment to the valuation of some bank investments.
Commerzbank, for example, has about 30.8 billion euros of debt securities such as Italian bonds that now have a value of 27.7 billion euros. A tie-up could crystallize this loss. Deutsche has such securities at market value in its accounts.
Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess apologized for his use of a phrase that appeared to play on the slogan on the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp, “Work sets you free.”
Diess said “Ebit macht frei” during an internal Volkswagen event, in a reference to the abbreviation for earnings before interest and taxes, evoking the Nazi slogan “Arbeit macht frei.” The misstep coincided with a notice that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has sued VW over the diesel emissions cheating scandal.
“It was in fact, a very unfortunate choice of words and I am deeply sorry for any unintentional pain I may have caused,” Diess wrote in a post on his LinkedIn page. “For that I would like to fully and completely apologize.”
The comments are all the more unfortunate considering Volkswagen’s history. The automaker was founded by the German government in 1937 to mass-produce a low-priced car, and was originally operated by the German Labour Front, a Nazi organization. Volkswagen, whose factory was repurposed during World War II to build military equipment and vehicles, is today the world’s biggest automotive group with brands including Audi, Bugatti, and Porsche.
The expression ‘Ebit macht frei’ was made in an internal management presentation in connection with operating margins from various company brands, Diess said. Within Volkswagen, “brands with a higher margins have more freedom within the Group to make their own decisions. My comment was made within this context,” he said.
The CEO said it wasn’t his intention to make this expression in a way that could be misinterpreted, and he didn’t consider the possibility that it could be.
“Volkswagen has undertaken many activities over the last 30 years that have made the company, myself personally and our employees fully aware of the historical responsibility Volkswagen bears in connection with the Third Reich,” Diess wrote.
VW’s powerful works council welcomed Diess’s “swift clarification and unequivocal apology” for the remark, adding that remembrance and responsibility are part of the company’s DNA.
Since Diess, 60, took over as CEO last April, he’s struggled to put the 3 1/2-year-old diesel cheating scandal in the past. In the latest twist, the SEC said Thursday it was suing the carmaker for failing to disclose to investors that its diesel vehicles violated emission standards.
“The investors did not know that VW was lying to consumers to fool them into buying its ‘clean diesel’ cars and lying to government authorities in order to sell cars in the U.S. that did not comply with U.S. emission standards,” the SEC alleged.
VW said the SEC complaint is “legally and factually flawed” and the company will “contest it vigorously.” It accused the SEC of “piling on to try to extract more from the company” more than two years after settlements with the Justice Department.
Official cites past security-related events as example
Auctioning of 5G licenses in Germany starts next week
Huawei Technologies Co. isn’t a trustworthy partner to build Germany’s fifth-generation mobile networks, a representative of the country’s BND intelligence service told a committee of lawmakers.
Past “security-relevant incidents” involving the company are part of the reason, the representative told the committee in Berlin on Wednesday. An official from the Foreign Ministry, speaking at the same meeting, said it would be hard to work with a company that cooperates with its national secret service. The parliamentary press service reported the comments in a statement but didn’t name the officials.
“It’s above all a matter of trustworthiness and of the impact on our relationship with our allies,” the Foreign Ministry official told the committee, adding that Germany is in contact with partner nations on the issue.
German intelligence officials have been pushing the government to stop Huawei from playing a part in the building of 5G infrastructure in the country, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News this month. The officials are concerned that Huawei could help China steal German corporate secrets, the people said.
Huawei has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and long maintained it doesn’t provide back doors for the Chinese government, pointing out that no one has provided evidence to support such concerns.
An outright ban on Huawei is seen as legally impossible, but German officials are looking at tools that would have the same effect. The U.S. has been pressuring its allies in Europe to ban Chinese equipment in the ultrafast networks being rolled out over spying concerns.
Germany’s Bundesnetzagentur regulator said last week that it wants to limit equipment supply to “trustworthy” vendors that comply with national safety regulations as well as secrecy and privacy rules. Germany plans to start an auction of 5G airwaves on March 19, though legal challenges to its design by multiple carriers risk delaying the process.
Executives are looking for reassurances they’ll get government backing for potential job cuts as they consider going public with their potential plans, according to people involved in the discussions. While the German Finance Ministry has encouraged the struggling banks to combine, Merkel has stayed on the sidelines so far, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private deliberations.
The government owns 15 percent of Commerzbank and the chancellor will eventually have to give the deal her green light in order for it to happen.
Proponents of a deal say the combination would create a stronger German champion that can better compete with rivals but Merkel remains skeptical that a merger would fix the banks’ problems and the chancellor is keen to avoid being drawn into more bank bailouts. With as many as 30,000 jobs under threat, the possible combination of Germany’s two largest listed lenders is also likely to face a public backlash and no one wants to be seen as the instigator.
Despite those reservations, the discussions have continued to move forward. Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing and his counterpart at Commerzbank, Martin Zielke, are increasingly looking at a combination as their best option as their restructuring efforts fail to quickly bear enough fruit, people have said. The Finance Ministry is also concerned that the deal needs to happen now before Germany’s slowing economy makes such a move even more difficult.
Spokespeople for Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, the Chancellery and Finance Ministry declined to comment.
An announcement of formal merger talks is potentially imminent, the people said, but executives want to dispel doubts over their political cover before moving ahead. The two banks’ supervisory boards are both due to meet next week, separately, and that could be an opportunity to finalize an announcement.
As the banks deliberate the merits of a deal, the government’s position is still being hammered out, the people said. While the Finance Ministry clearly backs the deal, the government’s stance will be decided in talks that also include the Chancellery and Economy Ministry, headed by close Merkel ally Peter Altmaier, they said.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is keen to create a national champion for the German banking industry and wants to bolster Deutsche Bank before the economic slowdown starts to bite. Union leaders from Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank have closed ranks in opposition to the potential job losses, warning the risks of a tie-up would outweigh the advantages.
Labor representatives aren’t alone in their criticism. Representatives of two large Deutsche Bank shareholders have expressed doubts about a combination, while financial regulators are also wary, according to people familiar with the discussions.
For the politicians, there’s also the prospect of European parliamentary elections in May, where Scholz’s Social Democrats will be competing with Merkel’s Christian Democrats. With their national coalition already coming under pressure, particularly from Scholz’s rank-and-file, high-profile job losses would make life difficult for both leaders.
In recent days, Scholz himself has steered clear of the issue, dodging questions when asked by lawmakers at closed-door meetings, according to people briefed on the discussions. At another meeting last week, one of Scholz’s deputies waved off the idea that the ministry was pushing a tie-up, the people said.
While executives may want a solid commitment from Berlin, they’re unlikely to get public support from the chancellor and will likely have to make do with whatever reassurances she is prepared to offer in private, some of the people said.
Ambassador Richard Grenell wrote a letter to Germany’s economics minister urging Berlin to not allow Huawei or other third parties from China to provide 5G infrastructure to the country, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. and Germany have been trying to repair a fragile intelligence sharing relationship following spy scandals in 2013 and 2014.
Kate FazziniPublished 21 Hours Ago Updated 20 Hours AgoCNBC.com
Thomas Peter | ReutersA man walks past a Huawei shop in Beijing, China, March 7, 2019.
Berlin should bar Huawei or other Chinese vendors from constructing Germany’s 5G network or risk losing access to U.S. intelligence, according to a letter from U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell to the country’s economics minister, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The two countries have been carefully rebuilding their intelligence sharing relationship since 2013 and 2014, when the U.S. and Germany were at odds over two spying scandals stemming from the revelations by Edward Snowden of NSA snooping. Last month, German officials said they “weren’t ready” to ban Huawei equipment and were unsure of the legality of such a request, according to a statement from the German Interior Ministry.
“A direct exclusion of a particular 5G manufacturer is currently not legally possible and not planned,” said a ministry spokesman, according to a CNBC translation. “The focus is on adapting the necessary security requirements so that the security of these networks will be guaranteed even if there are potentially untrustworthy manufacturers on the market.”
The letter was sent Friday, the Journal said. This would be the first time the U.S. has explicitly threatened consequences against a country for using the Huawei’s equipment, which has been the subject of heavy scrutiny from U.S. intelligence agencies that say the company is intimately connected to the Chinese government and intelligence agencies. Huawei continues to deny these claims, and has launched legal and marketing campaigns to defend itself.
A Huawei spokesperson and Grenell’s office were not immediately available to comment.
(BBG) By Steven Arons8 de março de 2019, 07:32 WET Updated on 8 de março de 2019, 16:19 WET
Informal discussions picking up amid government pressure
Deutsche Bank CEO is said to have given up resistance to deal
A merger of Deutsche Bank AG and Commerzbank AG is shaping up as the most likely endgame as Germany’s largest listed lenders are running out of time to show they can grow as standalone companies.
The banks are intensifying informal talks as their turnaround efforts sputter, according to a person familiar with the matter. While there’s no formal mandate to pursue a merger and other options are still being considered, Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing has given up his resistance to doing a deal this year, according to the person, who asked not to be identified in disclosing internal deliberations.
Less than a year after taking over, Sewing is still struggling to reverse a long slide in revenue amid a slowdown in the economy that’s delaying a return to more normal interest rates. The Finance Ministry favors a merger of both lenders before the situation gets worse to support the small and mid-sized companies that are the backbone of the export economy, people familiar with the matter have said.
Deutsche Bank in February reaffirmed its 2019 profitability target but also made clear that it would need to implement tougher measures if markets don’t play along and revenue continues to decline. January was a terrible month for the trading business though February has seen improving conditions, several people familiar with the matter said.
The bank is now planning to implement tougher cost cuts as one step to ensure it can reach the profitability target, said the people. Other strategic options include a merger with another European bank, though that’s seen as remote. People close to Deutsche Bank’s leadership have floated names like UBS Group AG, BNP Paribas SA and ING Groep NV.
Deutsche Bank dropped 0.8 percent at 5:17 p.m. in Frankfurt trading and Commerzbank fell 1.7 percent. The banks declined to comment on the talks, which were reported earlier by German magazine Focus. The Finance Ministry also declined to comment.
The two companies previously discussed a merger in the summer of 2016 under then-Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan. Sewing was part of those discussions as head of the retail division at the time. The talks fell apart and the lenders embarked on their respective restructurings.
Almost three years later, those turnaround plans are sputtering. Commerzbank has dropped most of its 2020 financial targets after cutting its revenue outlook. Deutsche Bank, too, has been unable to reverse a long decline in revenue. Both lost more than half of their market value last year.
For Deutsche Bank, the urgency to address the situation is exacerbated by high funding costs and the risk of a credit rating cut. Chairman Paul Achleitner sees an expansion of Deutsche Bank’s retail deposit base — which a Commerzbank deal would bring — as one way to lower funding costs, the people said.
Two credit rating providers — Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings — have a negative outlook on the lender and see progress on revenue and profitability as key to maintaining their rating.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and Joerg Kukies, a former Goldman Sachs banker who serves as his deputy, have been favoring a merger with Commerzbank, people familiar with the matter have said. While a deal is viewed by some as an imperfect solution, some in the government think it will be impossible for Sewing to turn around Deutsche Bank before an economic slowdown exacerbates the situation, Bloomberg has reported.
The idea back in 2016 was to merge Commerzbank with a subsidiary of Deutsche Bank that would also contain its retail and some of its corporate banking operations, and then float that business on a stock exchange, according to one of the people. Deutsche Bank’s trading operations would have remained separate, perhaps with a view to selling or merging them with another bank at some point.
Deutsche Bank last year laid some groundwork that would make such a split easier, by setting up a largely separated retail and commercial clients operations when it combined its two German retail subsidiaries. The move was aimed at placating regulators’ requirements that the new entity could be separated easily from the rest of Deutsche Bank should it be necessary to wind down the trading operations.
Several of the largest Deutsche Bank shareholders said they would need to see a concrete proposal first before deciding whether they would support it. Two of them said they currently lean toward opposing a merger, while one would back a deal. All spoke on condition of anonymity.
Critics of the Commerzbank option say it would lock Deutsche Bank into several years of restructuring and come with high execution risks, as job cuts are difficult to implement given Germany’s tough labor laws. They also warn that Deutsche Bank’s disappointing track record of technology integration would make it tricky to achieve savings.
Another option under consideration — and currently favored by the two shareholders skeptical of a merger — would see deep cuts to the bank’s U.S. investment banking operations. In this scenario, the bank would redeploy the freed capital in growth areas. That option, however, would erode the bank’s top line even more, at least initially. Sewing has said that the bank will remain in the U.S., with the investment bank a key revenue contributor.
Socialist leader Nicolas Maduro has already backed down from demands that US diplomats leave Venezuela (backing off after the US threatened a military intervention to protect their diplomatic corps.), but it looks like he will have better luck with Germany.
To wit, on Tuesday, the Venezuelan strongman declared German ambassador to Venezuela Daniel Martin Kriener persona non grata and gave him 48 hours to leave the country, according to Reuters. The expulsion order was confirmed by the German government, which said it would obey the order and recall Kriener.
“Venezuela considers it unacceptable that a foreign diplomat carries out in its territory a public role closer to that of a political leader aligned with the conspiratorial agenda of extremist sectors of the Venezuelan opposition,” the government said in a statement.
A German foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed Venezuela had expelled the ambassador and that the ministry was consulting with its allies on how to respond.
Kriener was expelled after he joined a group of other diplomats at the Caracas airport to welcome opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by Germany and roughly 50 other countries as the legitimate democratically-elected ruler of Venezuela. Guaido risked arrest to return to Venezuela last week.
Most Western countries, including Germany, recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state and back his plan to install a transition government ahead of free elections. Guaido denounces Maduro as an usurper whose re-election last year resulted from a sham vote. Maduro says he is victim of a coup.
Kriener, along with ambassadors and diplomats from other European embassies, had gone to the airport on Monday to support Guaido, who had risked arrest on his return to Venezuela for flouting a court-imposed travel ban to visit other Latin American countries.
On Monday, the embassy said on its Twitter account that Kriener hoped Guaido’s return “was a step towards a peaceful and political process to overcome the Venezuelan crisis.”
The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas blasted Maduro for the “incomprehensible decision” and said he had decided to recall Kriener to avoid any conflict.
(GUA) Belgian parliament asks Berlin to stop payments to non-Germans who pledged allegiance to Hitler
Nearly 75 years after the second world war, Germany is still paying monthly pensions to collaborators of the wartime Nazi regime in several European countries including Belgium and Britain, according to Belgian MPs and media reports.
The foreign affairs committee of the Belgian parliament this week voted in favour of a resolution urging the German federal government to put an immediate stop to the payments and publish a full list of those receiving them.
“The receipt of pensions for collaborating with one of the most murderous regimes in history is in clear contradiction to the work of remembrance and for peace constituted in the European project,” states the resolution, which was passed unanimously.
The document said nearly 30 people in Belgium are still receiving the payments under a decree by Adolf Hitler granting the same nationality and pension rights as German citizens to foreigners, including Waffen-SS volunteers, from Nazi-occupied territories who pledged “allegiance, fidelity, loyalty and obedience” to the Führer.
German authorities have “consistently refused to communicate the list of pension recipients to their Belgian counterparts, citing legal concerns around the protection of privacy”, according to le Soir newspaper.
The resolution’s authors, five MPs from French-speaking parties, said the monthly payments were made by individual German states and the names of the recipients were known to the German embassy in Brussels.
Responding to the claims, the Germany labour ministry said 18 people in Belgium were receiving war pensions but “there are no former members of the Waffen-SS” among them. It did not name the pensioners or say on what grounds they were entitled to the payments.
Authorities in Belgium were not aware of the pensioners’ identities, the Belgian MPs (Olivier Maingain, Stephane Crusnière, Véronique Caprasse and Daniel Senesael) said, adding that the situation was “the same in the UK, where former SS people also receive payments directly from the German länder [states] without the amounts being taxed or communicated to the British authorities”. The German embassy in London said it did not have any information about the Belgian allegations.
The Belgian state broadcaster, RTBF, said similar payments were also being made in Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. In the Netherlands, historian Cees Kleijn has said war criminals may be among 34 former Nazi collaborators receiving German government pensions, according to the state broadcaster NOS.
Citing the work of a Belgian researcher specialising in the second world war, Alvin de Coninck, RTBF said the payments range from €435 to €1,275 a month, depending on the length of time the recipients – among a total of 80,000 Belgians convicted of various forms of wartime collaboration – had spent in prison after the war.
By contrast, Belgian survivors among the 12 million foreigners from 20 countries who were enrolled in Nazi Germany’s forced labour schemes receive €50.
“This pension shows that Belgian collaborators with the Nazi regime are considered to be like any other kind of worker,” the MPs said, “even if they were convicted of actively participating in the war”, creating a “morally problematic” situation.
The pension payments have continued because Hitler’s 1941 decree was not repealed by the postwar Potsdam Conference of July 1945, at which Britain, the US and the Soviet Union established Germany’s postwar order, deciding on its demilitarisation, dismantling, democratisation and denazification.
German payments to wartime collaborators have been a source of concern in Belgium since their existence was first uncovered by a Socialist deputy in 1997. In 2012, it emerged through parliamentary questions that about 2,500 Belgians were still receiving some form of German state pension, the majority of whom are now thought to have died.
“Among the beneficiaries were some residents of eastern Belgium and Alsace who acquired German nationality after the Nazi invasion, but also Belgians who joined the Waffen-SS during the war,” said De Coninck, the son of a resistance fighter and member of Remembrance, a group of Belgian concentration camp survivors.
In 2017, at the request of Remembrance, Germany’s then ambassador, Rüdiger Lüdekring, told a hearing of the Belgian parliament that as a representative of the federal government he was was unable to give any precise information because the relevant details were held by Germany’s 16 länder.
A Belgian parliamentary commission visited Berlin last year to discuss the issue with their German counterparts. The MPs established that a majority of 27 Belgian wartime collaborators still receiving German pensions were being paid by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Belgian media reported.
The present German ambassador to Belgium, Martin Kotthaus, told a Flemish-language news site last year that an investigation was under way to establish what exact role the remaining recipients of the pensions had played during the war.
But despite what the leftwing German MP Ulla Jelpke called a “wholly unacceptable situation”, a German historian, Martin Göllnitz, of Johannes Gutenberg university in Mainz, said he doubted the problem would be resolved in the near future.
German privacy laws would not permit a case-by-case study of the pension recipients, while the German social security system was not subject to eventual criminal law proceedings, Göllnitz said.
MUNICH/BERLIN (REUTERS) – Germany’s halt in exports to Saudi Arabia is preventing Britain from completing the sale of 48 Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes to Riyadh, and has delayed potential sales of other weapons such as the A400M military transport, a top Airbus official said on Friday (Feb 15).
Germany in November said it would reject future export licences to Saudi Arabia after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It has not formally banned previously approved deals, which would entitle companies to compensation, but has urged industry to refrain from such shipments for now.
Airbus Defence and Space chief Dirk Hoke told Reuters that uncertainty about the issue had undermined Germany’s credibility, and could threaten future Franco-German defence projects, including a planned Eurodrone that was heading for an initial contract by the end of the year.
“This is a serious problem,” Mr Hoke said in an interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
“We’re facing constraints in many projects, and many problems have been put on ice,” including what he called discussions about a sale of A400M military transports to Saudi Arabia.
Germany accounts for just under 2 per cent of total Saudi arms imports, a small percentage internationally compared with the United States and Britain, but it makes components for other countries’ export contracts. That includes a proposed £10 billion (S$17.5 billion) agreement by Riyadh to buy 48 new Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets from Britain.
The deal, in the making for nearly four years, was finalised late last year, but has been held up for months due to the German position, triggering “massive, emotional reactions” from Britain and BAE Systems, Mr Hoke said.
Eurofighter is built by a consortium of four founding countries – Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain – represented by Airbus, Britain’s BAE Systems and Italy’s Leonardo .
Mr Hoke said the current situation was difficult to explain to customers since there was no formal embargo. Top Airbus executives had appealed to the Foreign Ministry and the Economy Ministry to allow the Eurofighter deal to proceed, he said.
He said Germany’s politically driven stance could also have negative consequences for future Franco-German projects, including the Eurodrone project.
Germany and France have made progress in recent months on a bilateral agreement, but Berlin is resisting making it legally binding, according to French sources familiar with the matter.
“It will pose lasting damage to the German relationship with France if no serious, long-term solutions can be found,” he said. “Germany is simply viewed as unreliable on this issue at the moment.”