By Andreas Framke
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) on Thursday downplayed the idea that a deal with cross-town rival Commerzbank (CBKG.DE) could materialise soon, after Bloomberg reported that top shareholders had been consulted about a potential tie-up.
Deutsche Bank's supervisory board chairman, Paul Achleitner, had consulted top shareholders and German government officials about merging with Commerzbank, Bloomberg reported earlier on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.
"The Chairman of Deutsche Bank is asked constantly about this matter. His answer is always the same: 'All the pro and contra arguments can be read in analyst reports and the media'," a spokesman for the bank said in written comments. "He sees no reason to actively raise this issue."
Deutsche Bank, Germany's flagship lender, is searching for new avenues of growth after it was forced to retreat from a strategy of trying to build a global investment bank.
There are currently no formal discussions between Deutsche Bank and its cross-town rival, and any such move is not imminent, Bloomberg said, adding that stakeholders are being consulted about a possible deal down the road.
A key obstacle is Deutsche Bank's depressed share price, with investors telling Achleitner that they don't want a merger with Commerzbank at the moment because it would be highly dilutive and potentially trigger a capital increase and hefty write-downs, Bloomberg said.
Spokespeople for Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and the German Finance Ministry all declined to comment.
The German state, which now owns a stake of 15.6 percent in Commerzbank, will play a key role in deliberations about a deal between Germany's biggest lender and its cross-town rival.
A decade ago, Germany took a 25 percent stake in Commerzbank as part of an 18.2 billion-euro (£16 billion) bailout during the financial crisis, with Germany seeking to whittle down its stake over time.
Now Berlin politicians worry about incurring taxpayer losses on the stake, for which the German government paid an average of around 26 euros a share.
Deutsche Bank shares closed at 9.61 euros on Thursday, while those of Commerzbank closed at 9.47 euros.
Deutsche Bank's investment banking arm will bear more than half of the group's planned cost cuts, its chief financial officer said on Wednesday, as he admitted that the lender would continue to lag peers in the second quarter.
(Additional reporting by Christoph Steitz and Edward Taylor in Frankfurt and Tom Koerkemeier in Berlin; editing by Alexandra Hudson, Larry King)