By Arno Schuetze
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Allianz and Amundi are considering rival deals to tie up their asset management units with Deutsche Bank's DWS, sources close to the matter said on Wednesday.
Their interest comes as Germany's biggest bank considers a possible merger with Commerzbank, with talks now in their sixth week, increasing speculation about a deal for DWS which could generate funds for Deutsche to finance the merger.
Any deal to merge DWS with a peer and give it additional scale could also be presented as a strategic revamp of the troubled bank, in case Commerzbank talks fail.
Deutsche Bank is due to update the public on its Commerzbank merger talks by Friday at the latest, as both banks weigh a complex tie-up that analysts say is fraught with risk.
Allianz, which is Germany's biggest insurer, and Amundi, the French asset manager mostly owned by Credit Agricole, are working with their advisers on a possible deal with DWS, which has a market capitalisation of 6.4 billion euros (£5.5 billion), the sources told Reuters.
Deutsche Bank is already in talks with Swiss bank UBS over DWS, four different people said, confirming a Financial Times report of "serious" merger talks, but added these may still end without a deal.
A structure under consideration is for UBS to hive off its asset management business and fold it into DWS, which is 79.5 percent owned by Deutsche Bank, one of the sources said.
"Deutsche Bank needs to consolidate DWS, it is dependent on the high and stable earnings contribution of its asset management operation, so any deal needs to be structured to reflect that," the person said.
A combined UBS asset management unit and DWS would have just over 1.4 trillion euros of assets under management and is considered a good fit because the two are roughly the same size.
Such a tie-up would likely still give Deutsche control of the venture, another source familiar with DWS said.
Allianz has lined up Barclays to advise on a potential transaction, which could be structured as a merger between Allianz Global Investors and DWS, the people said.
JP Morgan has been seen in the lead to become Amundi's adviser, they added.
Shares in DWS traded up 1.6 percent to 32.60 euros, the highest levels since its initial public offering a year ago.
Amundi, Allianz, DWS, UBS, Barclays and JPMorgan declined to comment.
DWS' chief executive Asoka Woehrmann has said he wants to actively participate in consolidation in the asset management industry, while in recent months, executives at both Allianz and Amundi have said that they were open to acquisitions.
Early in 2018, Deutsche Bank listed DWS as part of a broader overhaul at the bank to help it move on from a string of lawsuits and trading scandals.
(Additional reporting by Angelika Gruber in Zurich and Tom Sims in Frankfurt; Editing by Tassilo Hummel, Alexander Smith and Alexandra Hudson)