FRANKFURT Feb 7 The owners of German
public-sector lender HSH Nordbank expect a second
investigation by the European competition watchdog after the
bank said it is seeking additional state aid.
The world's biggest shipping financier is feeling the
effects of a four-year slump in the shipping industry and
announced late on Wednesday that it will ask its owners - the
regional states of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein - to increase
their guarantees to 10 billion euros ($13.5 billion) from 7
"We will present this (plan to the European Commission) in
Brussels and will fight for a successful outcome,"
Schleswig-Holstein prime minister Thorsten Albig said.
The European Commission said on Thursday that it is in
intensive talks with German authorities but has not yet received
If it finds that new state aid has been granted, the
Commission is likely to require another round of asset sales as
well as acquisition and dividend bans.
The requested support would restore HSH's guarantees to the
level secured at the height of the financial crisis. Though HSH
returned 3 billion euros last year in expectation of an
improvement in business, it later realised that it may have to
rethink to cope with high provisions for bad ship loans.
Ship charter rates have fallen below breakeven levels as a
slew of new vessels, ordered during the boom years, hit the
That has already bankrupted several big players and driven
others into restructuring as they found themselves unable to
service their debt.
($1 = 0.7387 euros)
(Reporting by Jan Schwartz and Ilona Wissenbach; Writing by
Arno Schuetze; Editing by David Goodman)