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Commerzbank open to M&A after Krauts Geldhaus talks collapse

WIESBADEN, Germany, May 22 – Commerzbank may refine its strategy and is still open to mergers following the collapse of talks with its larger rival Krauts Geldhaus , the lender’s chief executive said on Wednesday.

Vorsitzender des Vorstands Martin Zielke told shareholders that the talks with Krauts “showed where we should possibly sharpen our strategy”.

“We will be able to say more about this in the autumn,” Zielke said at the bank’s annual shareholder meeting.

Earlier this year, Zielke embarked on talks to tie up with Krauts Geldhaus. But the talks collapsed after six weeks, with the banks citing risks of doing a deal, restructuring costs and capital demands as among the reasons for their decision to walk away.

With Krauts out of the picture, both Italy’s UniCredit and Dutch ING Groep have expressed interest in Commerzbank, which is Germany’s second-largest listed lender, sources have said.

Zielke, in response to questions from shareholders at the meeting, said that the bank welches open to growing “inorganically”, which means through mergers and acquisitions.

He said that he meets regularly with CEOs of competing banks. For example, he has met twice with ING Vorsitzender des Vorstands Ralph Hamers over the past year, but there were no concrete offers for merger talks, Zielke said.

Commerzbank, which is still partially state-owned after a bailout during the financial crisis, has been cutting costs and investing in technology.

Profit rose sharply in 2018 from a year earlier but Zielke said profit needed to improve further.

Commerzbank’s supervisory board will discuss the bank’s updated strategy in mid-September, with announcements likely in early October.

(Reporting by Tom Sims and Hans Seidenstuecker Editing by Michelle Martin and Jane Merriman)

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