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Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank said at odds over timing of talks

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DEUTSCHE BANK AG and Commerzbank AG are at odds over how quickly to update shareholders on their takeover talks, according to people familiar with the matter.

While Commerzbank Chief Executive Officer Martin Zielke wants a decision as soon as possible, Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing wants time to assess the deal, the people said, asking not to be identified. He would like to wait until after April 21, Die Welt reported Wednesday, without saying how it obtained the information.

Representatives for Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank declined to comment. Deutsche Bank Supervisory Board Chairman Paul Achleitner said previously his bank plans to update on the talks when it publishes first-quarter results, scheduled for April 26.

The two companies have been in formal talks about a takeover since March 17. The announcement prompted a backlash from labor unions and Commerzbank staff, who fear thousands of job cuts should a deal happen. Zielke has been trying to calm those concerns in meetings and internal memos, saying the lender must grow its market share for costly investments to pay off, and a deal would help it get there faster.

LABOR RESISTANCE
Resistance from labor representatives can scupper deals under Germany’s consensus-driven corporate decision-making. They have half the seats on the supervisory board and a unified labor front needs only one additional vote to shoot down a deal — which in most cases needs supervisory board approval to go ahead.

Both Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are in the midst of long turnaround plans that depend on sweeping job cuts that have been agreed with the works councils. Several labor representatives have threatened to end their cooperation on those should the deal happen.




“What you should take away with you: the alternative of doing nothing is not an option,” Zielke wrote in a recent memo. “We will take further steps in order to increase our growth and our profitability. At the end the question will be whether a potential tie-up makes strategic and economic sense and how such a model could look like.” He previously said that he wants to reach a swift decision on the deal.

The two lenders also have diverging views about the price Deutsche Bank would pay for Commerzbank shares in a takeover, one person said. Sewing is unwilling to pay the usual premium in such deals, Die Welt reported, adding that a premium of 20 percent to 30 percent above the target’s price is customary. — Bloomberg