Hesse economy minister says Commerzbank sale a possibility

FRANKFURT Wed Aug 28, 2013 6:47am EDT

The logo of Germany's Commerzbank is pictured at the bank's headquarters in Frankfurt May 10, 2013. Picture taken May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

The logo of Germany's Commerzbank is pictured at the bank's headquarters in Frankfurt May 10, 2013. Picture taken May 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The sale of Commerzbank (CBKG.DE), Germany's second biggest lender, is a possible option, the economy minister in the German state of Hesse was quoted on Wednesday as saying.

"In principle this could be considered. In Europe, it would depend on the partner," Florian Rentsch, told daily Handelsblatt in an interview when asked if he could envisage Commerzbank (CBKG.DE), which is part-owned by the federal government, being sold in part or in its entirety.

"The main thing is for the bank to manage the turnaround, with or without a partner," said Rentsch whose region is home to Commerzbank.

Rentsch is a party ally of Germany's federal economy minister and leader of Germany's Free Democrats (FDP) Philipp Roesler.

Traders said the remarks, the first public comments on the matter by a named German politician, contributed to the stock's 1.3 percent gain, while the country's blue-chip index DAX .GDAXI was down 0.4 percent at 0830 GMT.

Shares in the lender jumped last week Thursday after a news report that the German government, which bailed out Commerzbank in the financial crisis, might be willing to sell its 17 percent stake to a European peer.

Monthly Manager Magazin, quoting a source from the finance ministry, said at the time that by selling to a preferred bidder, the government hoped to retain some control over the bank and safeguard its key role as a lender to small and medium sized companies.

The Hesse regional government has no stake in Commerzbank, but in Germany's decentralized political system, it would likely be involved in any sale of such a flagship German lender.

Frankfurt, Hesse's largest city, is home to most of the country's main financial institutions.

Commerzbank's second-quarter net profit slumped to 43 million euros ($57 million) from 270 million a year ago, but a pick-up in its investment bank and lower provisions for bad shipping loans offered some cheer.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger and Daniela Pegna; editing by Stephen Nisbet)

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