German Finance Minister Christian Lindner signaled that Europe is unlikely to take rapid strides on forging closer ties between its fragmented banking markets, underlining his country’s hesitance about a project that bankers argue is crucial for cross-border mergers.
(Bloomberg) — German Finance Minister Christian Lindner signaled that Europe is unlikely to take rapid strides on forging closer ties between its fragmented banking markets, underlining his country’s hesitance about a project that bankers argue is crucial for cross-border mergers.
“On the banking union, there are many specific problems,” Lindner said Thursday at a banking conference in Frankfurt hosted by Handelsblatt newspaper. These “also relate to our German banking industry from the German government’s perspective and that make further progress time-consuming.”
Banks have shied away from acquiring competitors in other European countries because authorities put up firebreaks that limited the flow of deposits and capital after the 2008 financial crisis.
Since then, member states have been unable to agree on how to share risks in order to turn the bloc into a truly unified market. A plan announced by the European Commission this year to take a small step in that direction has also struggled to gain traction, with Germany one of the most vocal critics.
Lindner said governments are more likely to make progress in coming years on breaking down barriers to investments flowing across the European Union’s various capital markets.
The decision to pursue mergers is one for the management of the respective banks, he added. Yet he also said he would welcome efforts for European banks to have a “visible role in the global game,” allowing the German and European economies to rely on local lenders for international trade.
He declined to comment on any plans to sell the government’s stake of about 15% in Commerzbank AG, which executives have said could provide a catalyst for European deals.
“The German government is very satisfied with the bank’s development,” Lindner said. “It’s developing toward the strategy for 2024, which we really support,” he added. “The government is sticking to its long-term goal of privatizing unneeded state holdings as seen in the holdings report. But there have been no concrete decisions on Commerzbank.”
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