FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) - U.S. buyout groups Cerberus and Centerbridge made a joint bid for a minority stake in German public sector lender NordLB on Saturday, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
NordLB, which is 65 percent state-owned with regional savings banks holding the remainder, needs to shore up its balance sheet by 3.5 billion euros ($4 billion) to cover writedowns on sour ship loans and has been aiming for a solution by early February.
Each private equity firm would contribute a quarter of the needed cash, with the state of Lower Saxony making up the shortfall, one of the sources said.
In a statement, the bank only said it had received a joint offer from two unnamed financial investors, adding that it would review the bid and discuss any further steps with its owners.
NordLB Chief Executive Thomas Buerkle said the bank also remained open to a solution involving public funds and savings banks.
Cerberus and Centerbridge declined to comment.
Regional savings banks have lobbied against the prospect of private investors taking over the core businesses of municipally-owned lenders, but the source said the two buyout groups were not interested in such assets and would sell them to other savings banks.
Cerberus and Centerbridge would leave business units with around 30 billion euros in assets in the savings bank sector, including retail bank Braunschweiger Sparkasse, the business development bank, lottery activities, the home loan bank, a stake in fund manager Deka and the transaction banking business NordLB does with other savings banks, the source said.
“The activities that Cerberus and Centerbridge would sell have a book value of roughly 500 million euros, but only proceeds above book value would reduce the equity cheque that NordLB needs,” one of the other people said, adding that the additional cash inflow was expected to be rather marginal.
The buyout groups want NordLB to focus on aircraft financing, lending to renewable energy projects and real estate, as well as corporate banking. It will exit ship financing and retail banking activities, the source said.
The investors aim to shrink the size of the bank from a current balance sheet total of 150 billion euros to below 100 billion by 2023, the source added.
Reporting by Klaus Lauer; Additional reporting by Arno Schuetze; Writing by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Kirsten Donovan