German bank WestLB says offloading a third of its assets

16th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Regional German bank WestLB announced Wednesday that Germany's government had submitted a restructuring plan to the European Commission that included cutting a third of its assets by 2015.

These cuts came on top of a 2008 plan that already involved reducing its assets by half, the bank said.

The new proposals also included plans to ease the purchase or transfer of its assets by putting risky holdings such as bad loans in a "bad bank", to be disposed of later when market conditions are more favourable.

The bank would split its activities into four parts, some of which could be taken up by savings banks and others sold to investors, said the bank.

These steps would incur new charges, which would be passed on to the shareholders, the regional and federal state authorities, the statement said.

It did not specify how much those charges would be.

Deputy finance minister Steffen Kampeter said they had put three options to the European Commission and that it was now up to them to respond, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

The owners of WestLB -- regional savings banks and the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia, and the federal government -- had until Tuesday to submit a plan to restructure the bank to the European Commission.

They were also expected to come up with candidates who were ready to take it over. Media reports have identified interested buyers as the US investment funds Apollo, JC Flowers and Lone Star.

WestLB got into trouble through risky investments in the US real estate market that went sour in 2007, and has depended on state aid since then to stay in business.

The EU Commission approved the aid but demanded the bank be restructured and either made viable or sold off.

It called for more efforts from the bank in return for the 3.4 billion euros in public aid it had obtained to set up the "bad bank" facility into which the group has already dumped 77 billion euros of toxic assets.

If Brussels is not convinced by efforts to turn WestLB around, the Commission could order it be dismantled.

© 2011 AFP

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