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Cerberus Capital has demanded two board seats and an immediate change in strategy at Commerzbank in a bid to address the German lender’s “precarious situation.”
Cerberus, the second-largest shareholder in Commerzbank with a 5% stake, said in a letter dated June 9 sent to the supervisory board that the bank has “failed to implement any significant operational, technology or management initiatives,” according to multiple media outlets.
Cerberus wants to identity two directors for Commerzbank’s supervisory board and see the bank slash costs more aggressively. Cerberus reckoned the board’s push would be largely backed by other shareholders, saying these would be “highly supportive of efforts to enact significant change” at the supervisory and management boards as well as to the company’s strategy.
The activist gave the bank until the end of the week to respond to its request.
Commerzbank’s stock has lost roughly 60% of its value since Cerberus revealed a 5% stake in July 2017. The bank presented a turnaround plan in 2017 but missed most of its targets as low interest rates in the euro area squeezed margins. It unveiled a new one last September, which was criticized by Cerberus for lacking ambition but also by the lender’s top shareholder, the German government.
Cerberus has tried to approach the bank with a number of proposals over the past years but has seen its overtures cold-shouldered, another contentious matter raised in the Tuesday letter. The activist said it is “alarmed by the refusal of the management and supervisory boards to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and the abject failure to take appropriate remedial actions,” adding that the “window of opportunity to address the challenges is rapidly closing.”
Shares in Commerzbank traded slightly up 0.8% at 11:30 a.m. Central European Summer Time on Wednesday. The stock is still down 20% for the year.