While much attention in recent weeks has fallen on Deutsche Bank’s balance sheet, with concerns over both the bank’s capitalization as well as its liquidity forcing its stock price to all time lows as recently as two weeks ago, today we got a timely reminder that the bank also has substantial income statement problems when Bloomberg reported that the biggest German lender is implementing a companywide hiring freeze as CEO John Cryan “seeks to lower costs and shore up investor confidence.”
However, the confirmation that the bank continues to hemorrhage cash and is in expense-slashing mode, and which hits just a day after Deutsche Bank completed a tack-on bond offering in which it sold a total of $4.5 billion in 5 year bonds in two tranches, paying junk bond spreads for the privilege of obtaining funds, will hardly “shore up investor confidence.” If anything it will short it, or perhaps short DBK stock, which was down 2.5% to €12.04 in German trading as of this writing.
As Bloomberg adds, in a message to divisional chief operating officers on Wednesday, the Frankfurt-based lender said “hiring will be put on hold with immediate effect.” The hiring freeze affects all divisions excluding some control functions such as compliance. Arguably this means that i) the bank was hiring as concerns mounted that it was on the precipice and ii) that it actually had applicants who wanted to join the bank even as its stock plummeted to all time lows.
“It would be desirable if Deutsche Bank was restrictive in terms of new hires as they need to cut costs,” said Philipp Haessler, an analyst at Equinet Bank AG in Frankfurt, with a neutral recommendation on the shares. “Another way to cut costs is reducing the bonus pool.”
When reached by Bloomberg, a DB spokesman declined to comment on the hiring freeze, referring to an announcement on Oct. 6, when the bank said it reached an agreement with labor representatives to cut 1,000 positions in Germany as part of the wider restructuring plan. The lender employed more than 101,000 people in June, up from 98,138 at the end of 2014. Analysts at JPMorgan Chase & Co. have estimated that Deutsche Bank could save as much as 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion) this year largely through a hiring freeze.
Among other initiatives launched by Cryan, who tried to reassure investors that the bank is stable, was his assurance that the bank doesn’t plan to raise capital; instead it has approached the bond market on two separate occasions paying surprisingly high yields for the privilege of obtaining much needed funds. And then there is the ongoing feud with the DOJ over the $14 billion RMBS settlement: Deutsche Bank’s negotiations with the Justice Department to resolve a years-long investigation into residential mortgage-backed securities are continuing, Bloomberg reports.
Deutsche Bank is holding informal talks with securities firms to explore options including raising capital should mounting legal bills require it, Bloomberg also reports, adding that the lender could also revisit selling its Deutsche Postbank unit or parts or all of its asset-management division, according to the people. Cryan has already said Deutsche Bank may fail to be profitable this year after posting the first annual loss since 2008 last year. He also signaled that the lender may have to deepen cost cuts.
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