Martin Zielke, CEO of Commerzbank. Picture: BLOOMBERGALEX KRAUS
Martin Zielke, CEO of Commerzbank. Picture: BLOOMBERGALEX KRAUS

Wiesbaden — Commerzbank may refine its strategy and is still open to mergers following the collapse of talks with its larger rival Deutsche Bank, the lender’s CEO said on Wednesday.

CEO Martin Zielke told shareholders at the bank’s annual meeting that the talks with Deutsche “showed where we should possibly sharpen our strategy. We will be able to say more about this in the autumn.” 

Earlier in 2019, Zielke embarked on talks to tie up with Deutsche Bank, 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 Deutsche out of the picture, both Italy’s UniCredit and Dutch ING Group 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 the bank was 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 CEO 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 needs to improve further.

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