FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank AG defended plans to raise 8 billion euros (6.5 billion pounds) in equity capital on Thursday, as its top executives faced angry investors at the 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 sufficient profits to fortify its finances ahead of the industrywide health checks due to be conducted by European regulators this year.
“We know some of you are sceptical. Some of you may ask, why should we trust this team to deliver?,” co-Chief Executive Anshu Jain told thousands of shareholders at Frankfurt’s convention centre, while outside the building various protesters dressed as clown fish and pigs and others riding a cardboard tank, accused the bank of unethical behaviour.
“You should trust us because the transformation of Deutsche Bank is working, because we are doing what we said, step by step, because we’re strengthening capital and reducing risk”, he said.
“In the banking industry there will be winners and losers, and we are systematically positioning Deutsche Bank to be a winner,” he added.
Chairman Paul Achleitner told the meeting the bank aimed to make staff and clients “proud of Deutsche Bank again”.
Jain, who has been portrayed by some shareholders in the past as being a detached ‘Anglo-Saxon’ investment banker with little knowledge of Germany’s social-market economy, for the first time addressed the bank’s owners at length in German.
“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 4,800 investors.
Deutsche Bank also came under attack over its share price, which has fallen by about 15 percent in the past 12 months, while the Stoxx Europe 600 banking sector index is up 13 percent.
“When is this nightmare finally going to end?” fund manager Ingo Speich from Union Investment said. “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 raising but some investors have voiced anger over 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.
The bank said it still faces around 1,000 major lawsuits that have a value of over 100,000 euros.
“Our Deutsche Bank today is a huge law office with banking operations attached,” Klaus Nieding from shareholder organisation DSW said.
The bank has already had to pay out more than 5 billion euros ($6.9 billion) over the past two years in settlements and fines stemming mostly from the financial crisis, and has set aside another 1.8 billion euros in anticipation of more pain this year.
But management has pointed to “tectonic shifts” that have opened up 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 the likes of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan.
Separately, shareholders were expected to approve a proposal permitting senior staff to receive bonuses worth twice base pay, something the bank says is critical to remaining a competitive employer and to keeping its costs flexible.
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.
DSW’s Klaus Nieding said that compensation for the investment banking division in 2013 totalled 4.5 billion euros, with almost half of that being for bonus payments.
“If that’s still not enough for people, especially for the investment bankers ... then let them move on, Mr. Jain!” he said.
Editing by David Holmes and Greg Mahlich