Despite an impending economic downturn, Commerzbank believes in billions in profits in 2022 and can continue to rely on the state as a strong anchor shareholder.
"The federal government is very satisfied with the development of Commerzbank," said Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) on Thursday at a bank conference. "We have no legal or other obligation to make quick decisions about Commerzbank, but we want this bank to develop well in the German financial center because we know its important role."
In 2008/2009, the state had saved the major Frankfurt bank, which had swallowed up the troubled Dresdner Bank in the middle of the financial crisis, from collapsing with more than 18 billion euros in tax money. Commerzbank repaid the state aid years ago, but the federal government is still the largest single shareholder in the institute with a stake of 15.6 percent.
The CEO Manfred Knof, who took office as a reorganizer at the beginning of 2021, tightened the austerity course and led Commerzbank back into the profit zone. In the first half of 2022, the MDax group earned 768 million euros despite the economic turmoil resulting from the Ukraine war. For the year as a whole, the Executive Board is aiming for a surplus of more than one billion euros. The prerequisite, however, is that the economy does not deteriorate even more significantly, it said at the beginning of August.
"We've already covered a large part of the way, so I'm still cautiously optimistic," said Knof on Thursday at the "Handelsblatt" bank conference in Frankfurt. "We continue to assume that if this does not lead to a full-scale catastrophe and emergency braking, we can of course achieve our goals," said the Commerzbank boss.
Knof: No reason for scaremongering
Knof, whose institute is heavily involved in financing small and medium-sized enterprises, does not currently fear a wave of bankruptcies: "I have great confidence in the resilience of the German economy, including the companies." From conversations with customers, he perceives "that they are of course concerned and that difficult times are coming. But there is no reason for panic at all". In addition, support the traffic light coalition with aid packages.
The Federal Minister of Finance, who was connected via video, campaigned for the crisis to be shaped: "Our country has reserves, the ability to adapt, resourcefulness and also the willingness to face challenges together in crises," said Lindner. "And that's why I recommend all of us great concentration, but also the confidence that we will find our way out of this situation. In any case, I'm not a Cassandra caller." Many economists are now expecting the German economy to slip into recession.