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Commerzbank CEO to forgo bonus due to poor profits

Friday - 2/15/2013, 12:17pm  ET

Martin Blessing , CEO of Germany's Commerzbank , right, and CFO Stephan Engels arrive for a balance press conference in Frankfurt, Germany , Friday Feb. 15, 2013. Germany's Commerzbank says it's making progress in reshaping its business but still has "a long way to go" as higher shipping loan losses and low interest rates continue to squeeze profits. The bank provided detail Friday on its fourth-quarter earnings announced Feb. 4. It lost 716 million euro (US$954 million) largely due to one-time losses of 185 million euro on its sale of Bank Forum in Ukraine and 560 million euro in tax accounting charges. For all of 2012, net profit was a meager 6 million euro as loan losses increased and interest earnings shrank. (AP Photo/dpa, Boris Roessler)

DAVID McHUGH
AP Business Writer

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- The head of Germany's Commerzbank says he's not asking for a bonus after a year of meager profits and no dividend for shareholders.

The bank is cutting costs and plans to drop 4,000 to 6,000 jobs through 2016. CEO Martin Blessing also gave a downbeat outlook for 2013, saying it would be a year of restructuring that would cost "effort, money and time."

He said Friday that revenues, measured before provisioning for loan losses, "will remain under pressure" for this year.

Blessing termed profit of only EUR6 million ($8 million) for last year as "unsatisfactory" and told the board of directors he would not be drawing any performance-related pay. He said other executives on the top management committee would still get 40 percent of their bonuses, while managers lower down would take home more. He cited a "responsibility pyramid" in saying those with more authority should make a bigger sacrifice.

"I am at the top, and find that a larger contribution is correct and justified," he said. His base pay for 2012 was EUR1.3 million ($1.7 million).

The bank is restructuring to deal with tough conditions for the banking industry, including low interest rates and regulators' demands that banks keep stronger financial buffers against losses. It is winding down troubled businesses in ship financing and commercial real estate, as ordered by European Union authorities, to compensate for the state aid it got when it was bailed out after the 2007-2008 financial crisis. The German government still owns 25 percent.

The bank provided detail Friday on its fourth-quarter earnings announced Feb. 4. It lost EUR716 million ($954 million) largely due to one-time losses of EUR185 million on its sale of Bank Forum in Ukraine and EUR560 million in tax accounting charges.

For all of 2012, net profit was a meager EUR6 million. Contributing to the poor result were the large one-time charges for Bank Forum and the tax issue, as well as losses on shipping finance loans that are not being repaid due to troubles in that industry. Additionally, rock-bottom interest rates set by the European Central Bank and other central banks narrow the difference between what the bank pays depositors and creditors for money and what it can earn on loans.

The bank says its job cuts will see it incur costs of EUR500 million for restructuring in the first quarter of this year alone. It says it is ahead of schedule in reducing expenses, however. The bank's shares closed up 1.2 percent at EUR1.49.

Some of the bank's businesses, particularly its core business lending to mid-size companies in Germany, are doing better. The German business finance division showed very low loan losses of only EUR30 million for the whole year due to the country's relatively strong, export-based economy and raised operating profit to EUR1.65 billion from EUR1.59 billion.


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