FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank AG defended plans to raise 8 billion euros (6.52 billion pounds) in equity on Thursday, as its top executives faced investors at the lender’s annual shareholders’ meeting less than a week after announcing the surprise plan.
Germany’s largest bank launched the share issue only weeks after first hinting it was unable to retain enough profit to fortify its finances ahead of a pan-European regulatory health check of banks slated for later this year.
“We know some of you are sceptical. Some of you may ask, why should we trust this team to deliver?” said co-Chief Executive Anshu Jain in a speech to the meeting.
Co-CEO Juergen Fitschen said: ”We aim to position Deutsche Bank among the very small global group of leading banks that will define a new era for the banking industry.
Announcing the capital increase, Deutsche had diluted and delayed its turnaround targets originally set for 2015, pleading for patience as the bank, like many of its rivals, struggles to restructure and restore profitability.
Jain, who has been criticised by shareholders in the past as being a detached Anglo-Saxon investment banker with little knowledge of Germany’s distinctiveness, for the first time addressed the bank’s owners at length in German, having previously spoken in English.
“Both in our business environment and within Deutsche Bank, some challenges were tougher than we anticipated,” the Indian-born British citizen told the meeting, attended by some 9,000 investors, at Frankfurt’s huge convention centre.
Deutsche Bank, whose shares have fallen about 15 percent in value in the past 12 months against a 13 percent gain among European rivals, came under attack from some at the meeting.
”When is this nightmare finally going to end?“ fund manager Ingo Speich from Union Investment said in the text of a speech. ”Stockholders and investors are losing their patience with legal battles, fines and breaches of corporate governance and compliance.
“Much investor trust has been wasted. The capital hike is not helping,” Speich said.
Shareholder approval is not required for the capital hike but some investors have voiced anger with the issue and with a lack of progress on resolving a long list of investigations that has dogged the bank since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
“With the capital hike, the bank builds an extra cushion so that it is better prepared for the ECB test,” said Stefan Best, managing director at ratings agency Standard & Poor’s in Frankfurt.
Management has pointed to “tectonic shifts” that have opened opportunities in investment banking. European rivals including UBS and Barclays have withdrawn from areas such as bond trading, where Deutsche believes it can succeed as a big European player on a stage dominated by U.S. rivals like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan.
“Whether Deutsche Bank comes out of the financial crisis as a winner in investment banking remains to be seen,” Best said.
Separately, management will ask shareholders to approve a proposal permitting senior staff to receive bonuses worth twice base pay.
European Union rules say bankers’ bonuses cannot exceed their annual fixed salary, or twice that if shareholders approve, to curb the sort of excessive risk-taking blamed for the financial crisis.
The bonus cap is one of the most high-profile rules approved by the 28-country bloc following public anger over high pay at banks, many of which were propped up by taxpayers in the crisis.
Editing by David Holmes