Touch of the Anglo fiasco in Deutsche Bank’s dire straits

Embattled CEO denies asking Angela Merkel for aid, but may not be able to refuse a rescue

There was a touch of Anglo Irish Bank bingo in Deutsche Bank chief John Cryan's interview with the Bild tabloid on Wednesday.

The embattled British-born chief executive was on-message: the fundamentals are sound; we don't need state aid; I've never asked for state aid; we don't need a capital boost – for now. All that was missing for the Anglo Irish full house was an ironic rendition of the taboo "Deutschland Über Alles" first verse of the German anthem.

"The situation is better than it appears from the outside," insisted Mr Cryan to Bild, an unusual choice of media outlet for a banker, and one usually favoured by politicians in fire-fighting mode.

The head of Germany’s biggest bank admitted investors were concerned about its looming $14 billion fine for mis-selling mortgage-backed securities in the US between 2005 and 2007. But he is confident the bank will strike a compromise deal similar to those agreed by US banks. He needs to be confident: its collapsing value has left Deutsche with a capitalisation of about $18 billion.


Merkel request

Given the looming US fine, Bild wanted to know if, as reports this week suggested, he went cap in hand to chancellor Angela Merkel, only to get a firm no.

“I cannot understand how anyone can claim that,” he said. “At no point did I ask the chancellor for help. I didn’t even hint at anything of the sort.”

So no state aid needed, then? “That is not an issue for us.”

If not state aid then surely, Bild asked, the only other option was a new round of capital funding. "Not an issue at present," Mr Cryan insisted.

His valiant calming efforts in Bild were undone hours later by a claim in Die Zeit that the German regulator BaFin is working on a rescue plan for his bank. BaFin declined to comment, but Deutsche has form when it comes to refusing state aid.

Eight years ago, as the financial crisis flames took hold in Frankfurt, former Deutsche chief Josef Ackermann knocked back the idea of German state aid – and promptly killed off his relationship with Merkel.

"I'd be ashamed if we would take [state] money in the crisis," he said, creating an awkward situation for Commerzbank, Germany's number two, when it did just that.

Merkel, having been rebuffed twice before by Deutsche, has been watching her words carefully this week. But she knows that a serious cold at Germany’s largest lender risks another economic flu in Europe. Third time around, Deutsche may find Berlin is making an offer it can’t refuse.