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German coalition agrees on levy for bank bailouts
March 22, 2010 / 1:45 PM / 8 years ago

German coalition agrees on levy for bank bailouts

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s coalition has agreed to introduce a levy for future bank bailouts that would raise billions of euros, mainly from big banks with high-risk business, coalition sources told Reuters.

The cabinet could agree within two weeks on a draft law for a bank charge to protect taxpayers from the costs of state aid to financial institutions, the sources said.

“There will be a bank charge, we cannot talk about its reach yet, but it will be heftier for banks with a high systemic risk ... than for cooperative and savings banks,” Volker Kauder, parliamentary floor leader for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, said on Monday.

“It will definitely reach into billions,” Kauder said of the levy in an interview on ZDF television.

An internal Finance Ministry document obtained by Reuters on Friday showed that the fund could reap as much as 9 billion euros ($12 billion) annually from the bank charge, based on the terms of a similar model being proposed in the United States.

The country’s two biggest lenders, Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) and Commerzbank (CBKG.DE), would have to pay contributions of 2.25 billion euros and 1.27 billion euros respectively, Merck Finck analyst Konrad Becker calculated in a research note, assuming a charge of 0.15 percent of total assets.

But even with a raft of German banks and insurers paying into the fund, it would need to run for years to gain the needed heft given the size of bank bailouts in the financial crisis, Becker said.

“That’s a joke,” Becker said of the 9 billion euro figure.

The Stoxx 600 Europe index of banking shares was down 1.9 percent by 1015 GMT on Monday, with Deutsche Bank down 1.2 percent, while Commerzbank was 3.3 percent lower.

LEARNING FROM THE CRISIS

Financial policy experts from the coalition will discuss the issue further on Monday.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the charge could feed into a fund that would finance the costs of bank rescues and restructuring in future crises, as a “kind of insurance.”

“It is about learning from the past crisis,” Schaeuble told SWR radio on Monday, adding that it was important however that the charge would not affect banks’ performance.

The financial crisis forced German taxpayers to rescue stock-market listed lenders IKB IKBG.DE and Hypo Real Estate, which was nationalized, with billions of euros in capital and guarantees.

Berlin also took a 25 percent stake in Commerzbank, bolstering its capital as part of an 18 billion euro rescue.

The chief executive of Deutsche Bank, which got through the crisis without a government bailout, has backed the idea of a fund to stabilize, restructure and wind down troubled banks.

“We need a mixed financing solution to achieve the needed size. Therefore the state has to participate at least at the beginning,” Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann said in a speech last week.

Schaeuble said Germany would have liked to consider introducing a tax on financial transactions, but this was only possible if it was implemented on a global scale.

“And at the moment, there is no realistic chance for this,” he said.

Reporting by Brian Rohan, Matthias Sobolewski and Gernot Heller in Berlin and Jonathan Gould and Philipp Halstrick in Frankfurt, Writing by Sarah Marsh; editing by Patrick Graham/Ruth Pitchford/Susan Fenton

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