* Deutsche Bank says consolidation inevitable
* Societe Generale, Unicredit say scale important in banking
* UBS chairman says no deal with Commerzbank imminent
* Unicredit says has no interest in Commerzbank
By Edward Taylor and Arno Schuetze
FRANKFURT, Sept 4 Europe's top bankers said the
cost of new bank safety rules will force consolidation in the
sector but poured cold water on the prospect of weaker lenders
like Commerzbank being snapped up, citing a regulatory
push to shrink balance sheets.
Bank watchdogs seeking to improve the safety of global
lenders have pushed for lenders to hold more capital, placing an
additional burden on profits already strained by the low
interest rate environment.
This, combined with a gradual withdrawal of some of the
stimulus measures which have propped up struggling lenders will
change the banking landscape, Deutsche Bank co-chief executive
Anshu Jain told an industry conference in Frankfurt.
"There is a clear consolidation of the industry and there is
a simplification of the business model," Jain said.
"There is a tremendous opportunity to take market share
organically but, frankly, inorganically as well," Jain said, a
reference to the possibility of acquisitions.
Asked what role Deutsche Bank could play in consolidation,
Jain said Germany's largest bank was primarily focused on
fulfilling bank safety rules to build up capital.
UniCredit boss Federico Ghizzoni said only banks with a
certain size could afford to make investments, such as the 700
million euros ($921 million) to 800 million euros his
institution had spent on information technology to meet
Bankers stopped short of saying the need for scale would
translate in to a raft of takeover deals, citing a drive by
regulators to bring down leverage, a move which penalises banks
with large balance sheets.
UBS AG chairman Axel Weber said the Swiss bank was
currently focused on meeting new bank safety rules, playing
down speculation that the lender is about to buy a stake in
"I know what you are alluding to, I can assure you that we
are focused on implementing our strategy and raising our capital
level," Weber said at the conference in response to a question
about whether UBS was interested in buying Commerzbank.
Weber said that while acquisitions could not be completely
ruled out, "this is not an issue in the short term, or something
which is planned in a manner which would impact our process of
building up capital".
In July, German media reported that Finance Minister
Wolfgang Schaeuble had spoken to Weber about the possibility of
the Swiss bank buying the government's remaining stake in
The reports said the German government, which bailed out
Commerzbank in the financial crisis, might be willing to sell
its 17 percent stake to a European peer. By engineering a sale
to preferred bidder, the government hoped to retain some control
over the bank's fate, the reports said.
Ghizzoni said UniCredit was not interested in buying
Axel Weber said that for any deal to work, it would take
more than just the consent of the German government, and would
require the consent Commerzbank Chief Executive Martin Blessing.
"It takes two to have a successful marriage, and I think Mr.
Blessing, as a potential partner, would also have a say in all
this. Should it ever go in that direction," Weber added, without