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UPDATE 1-Berlin will not consider Commerzbank stake sale until 2016 -magazine
August 20, 2014 / 9:56 AM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-Berlin will not consider Commerzbank stake sale until 2016 -magazine

* Commerzbank restructuring plan to run until 2016

* Berlin wants to avoid loss to taxpayers when selling stake

* Share price likely higher in 2016 -finance ministry official (Adds quotes, context)

FRANKFURT, Aug 20 (Reuters) - The German government would entertain a sale of its 17 percent stake in Commerzbank only after a restructuring of the lender is completed in 2016, a top finance ministry official told a German magazine.

“We are not a long-term investor but I see no reason to part with our stake right now,” Deputy Finance Minister Thomas Steffen told Manager Magazin.

“If we were to get out now it would mean that we don’t believe in management’s plans,” he added.

Commerzbank was one of the highest-profile casualties of the global financial crisis, with the German government spending around 18 billion euros ($24 billion) to bail it out.

Germany’s monopolies commission, which advises the government on competition issues, last month said the stake was an additional nuisance in a financial market already marked by numerous competitive distortions and urged Berlin to sell rather than wait for a better share price.

A stake sale could also clear the way for a takeover of Commerzbank.

German media have in the past reported that France’s Societe Generale and Spain’s Santander were separately mulling a tie-up with Commerzbank. The lenders declined to comment.

Other banks mentioned as potential Commerzbank stake buyers, including UniCredit, UBS and BNP Paribas , have said publicly that they were not interested.

Analysts calculate that the break-even price for the government would be around 26 euros per share, far from the current price of 10.92 euros.

The bank’s shares have shed almost 5 percent so far this year, underperforming the European bank index, which is down 0.7 percent, but outperforming flagship Deutsche Bank , which down by nearly 25 percent.

It has laid out a number of targets for growth and cost-cutting to improve its financial strength by 2016.

In his interview with Manager Magazin, Steffen repeated that the German government wanted to minimise the hit to taxpayers.

“There are good reasons to assume that the share price will be higher in 2016 than it is now. Our interest is to avoid losses to the taxpayer as much as possible,” he said.

“That’s also why we are not conducting secret talks at a motorway rest stop to get rid of our stake,” Steffen added.

1 US dollar = 0.7524 euro Reporting by Jonathan Gould; Editing by Pravin Char

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