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German finance ministry often met Deutsche Bank on strategy in 2018

FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz attends a press conference after the federal cabinet meeting in Potsdam, Germany November 15, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's finance ministry regularly met with top Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) executives in 2018 for talks that included topics such as strategic options (DBKGn.DE), a finance ministry letter seen by Reuters on Friday showed.

The letter, written by a deputy finance minister to a member of Germany's parliament in response to questions and dated Jan. 10., listed 23 meetings between the finance ministry and Deutsche Bank executives in the period May to December 2018.

Subjects discussed in the meetings included "strategic options of the institutes and evaluations by the leadership of the finance ministry", the letter said.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung first reported on the letter and the meetings between finance ministry officials and Deutsche Bank executives.

There has been longstanding and widespread speculation that Berlin may try to engineer a merger of Germany's two biggest lenders, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank (CBKG.DE).

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has helped feed that speculation by stressing the need for a strong German banking sector, a shift in tone from his predecessor.

The letter also responded to a request to evaluate a possible merger between Commerzbank (CBKG.DE), which is 15 percent owned by the government, and other lenders.

"The government is open to economically viable options," the letter said, noting that operational and strategic questions were a matter for executives.

Joerg Kukies, a deputy, represented the ministry at many of the meetings, while Deutsche Bank's Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing represented the bank at six meetings.

The bank's chairman Paul Achleitner sat in on another six meetings, the meeting list revealed.

A spokesman for the Finance Ministry had no immediate comment. Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank declined to comment.

Executives for both banks have played down the idea of a merger, saying that they need to focus on restructuring and improving profitability before any possible tie-ups.

(Reporting by Holger Hansen and Tom Sims; Editing by Alexander Smith and Louise Heavens)