Commerzbank cuts revenue outlook as its top brass revamps strategy

Frankfurt-based bank is concerned over slowing economy, trade conflicts and continued negative interest rates

Commerzbank's shares fell to a record low last month as Germany’s economic contraction and expectations for even lower interest rates threaten to undercut bank's strategy. Bloomberg
Commerzbank's shares fell to a record low last month as Germany’s economic contraction and expectations for even lower interest rates threaten to undercut bank's strategy. Bloomberg

Commerzbank is giving up a goal for higher revenue this year as an economic slowdown and lower interest rates force chief executive Martin Zielke to accelerate cost reductions.

“Over the course of 2019, the market environment has continued to deteriorate further. This has been particularly evident in the corporate clients business,” the Frankfurt-based financial institution said in a statement on Friday.

“The bank is therefore no longer anticipating a rise in underlying revenues for the year 2019.”

Mr Zielke is trying to reverse years of falling revenue and low profitability by focusing the bank on lending to individuals or corporations in its home market. But a slowing economy, trade conflicts and continued negative interest rates in Europe have undermined the plan and forced Commerzbank to announce more job cuts last week, as well as the sale of its majority stake in the Polish subsidiary MBank to pay for the restructuring.

Commerzbank's shares fell 2.5 per cent on Friday morning, extending losses this year to 10 per cent.

Mr Zielke has pledged to achieve a return on tangible equity of 4 per cent in four years’ time.

Commerzbank announced on late Thursday that it appointed compliance head Bettina Orlopp as chief financial officer after incumbent Stephan Engels said earlier this month he will join Danske Bank. Sabine Schmittroth was named head of human resources.

Rocked by intense competition in its home market and low interest rates that erode margins, Commerzbank has long struggled to achieve meaningful profitability. Its shares fell to a record low last month as Germany’s economic contraction and expectations for even lower interest rates threaten to undercut Mr Zielke’s strategy.

Mr Zielke had previously pledged average revenue growth of 3 per cent a year, but has since walked back those expectations. In an announcement last week, the bank said it expected higher revenue "by 2023".

“Negative interest rates, increasing regulation, weaker economy and tough competition... and on top of that social trends that call on banks to adopt a clear position... the challenges facing banks are enormous,” Mr Zielke said in prepared remarks. “Revenue growth is challenging.”

Published: September 27, 2019 03:53 PM

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