France nudges BNP Paribas towards Commerzbank tie-up

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The French government on Wednesday nudged the country's biggest bank, BNP Paribas, towards a possible tie-up with Germany's Commerzbank amid media speculation that Paris and Berlin want the two giants to merge.

Shares in Commerzbank surged last month amid rumours that the German government might soon sell its 15.6-percent stake in the bank, Germany's second-biggest lender after Deutsche Bank.

"BNP Paribas' international development is the business of BNP Paribas and it would be good if it also turned towards Germany and towards an important bank such as Commerzbank," government spokesman Christophe Castaner told journalists.

Earlier Wednesday, French paper Le Canard Enchaine said French President Emmanuel Macron would be "very favourable" towards a tie-up between BNP Paribas and Commerzbank.

Castaner said he would not be drawn on the shape of any such tie-up "especially since nothing has been made official".

Speculation on Commerzbank's future was triggered last month when German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told media the government did not intend to remain a Commerzbank shareholder indefinitely.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government bought the stake in 2009 during the financial crisis in a bid to save Commerzbank from failing.

According to German weekly Wirtschaftswoche, Merkel is now in favour of a "French-German solution" for Commerzbank, involving BNP Paribas, and consultants have been tasked with exploring possible scenarios.

No move was, however, expected before November at the earliest, Wirtschaftswoche said.

Other German press reports have also mentioned Italy's Unicredit as a possible partner for Commerzbank.

Either way, Berlin may want to wait for Commerzbank's share price to rise before making any announcement to get the best possible deal for Germany's taxpayers in any stake sale, reports said.


© 2017 AFP

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