Commerzbank warns of profit drop for 2019

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Commerzbank AG CBKG.DE on Thursday said its 2019 profit would be lower than last year, partly due to the impact of euro zone monetary policy that has pressured margins.

FILE PHOTO: A sign for an ATM of Commerzbank is seen in Frankfurt, Germany, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

The German bank, which reported a 35% jump in its third-quarter net profit, had already flagged that revenue would also shrink this year against a weaker economic backdrop

The state-backed bank, which is restructuring after a failed merger attempt with Deutsche Bank DBKGn.DE, also cited trade conflicts and expectations for a higher tax rate in the fourth quarter for the profit downgrade.

“We deliberately set long-term success above short-term return targets,” Chief Executive Officer Martin Zielke said.

The bank’s shares were down 2.1% late morning in Frankfurt.

Commerzbank overhaul includes cutting staff, closing branches and selling mBank MBK.WA in Poland.

The bank has sent out so-called teasers to potential bidders for mBank, finance chief Stephan Engels said on Thursday, an important first step in the sale process.

The Polish state-run banks PKO BP PKO.WA and Pekao PEO.WA have confirmed interest in bidding, as has the Austrian bank Erste Group ERST.VI.

Other potential suitors include Credit Agricole CAGR.PA, Banco Santander SAN.MC, BNP Paribas BNPP.PA, ING INGA.AS, according to people familiar with the matter. These banks declined to comment or did not respond to requests seeking comment.

“We have received very constructive feedback,” Engels said.

Commerzbank, part owned by the German government after a bailout, has been struggling for years with a legacy of bad debts, high costs and fines, and tough trading conditions have hampered its recovery efforts.

Net profit in the third quarter came in at 294 million euros ($325.08 million), up from 218 million euros last year, in line with preliminary figures published last month.

Banks in Germany and elsewhere in the European Union have complained about the effect of the European Central Bank’s ultra-loose policy on their bottom lines.

At Commerzbank, a so-called tiering program by the ECB to offset the fees it charges banks for holding their deposits, will only partially offset charges by the central bank, Engels said.

Commerzbank is in the process of charging higher prices for deposits for corporate clients, and it has reached out to a number of private clients about passing along fees, he said. Those include people with well over 1 million euros in their accounts.

Reporting by Tom Sims, Hans Seidenstuecker and Arno Schuetze; additional reporting by Marcin Goclowski in Warsaw; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Jane Merriman