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Commerzbank weighs 7,000 job cuts, 400 branch closures

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Commerzbank AG chief executive officer Martin Zielke may eliminate more than 7,000 jobs and close about 400 branches as he tries to respond to frustration among shareholders, including the German government and Cerberus Capital Management, over the pace of cost-cutting efforts, according to people familiar with the matter.

Frankfurt

COMMERZBANK AG chief executive officer Martin Zielke may eliminate more than 7,000 jobs and close about 400 branches as he tries to respond to frustration among shareholders, including the German government and Cerberus Capital Management, over the pace of cost-cutting efforts, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr Zielke and chief financial officer Bettina Orlopp may present the cost-reduction targets as the cornerstone of a broader restructuring plan at a meeting of the supervisory board on Wednesday, the people said.

The final goals haven't been decided yet, partly because several executives are sceptical about whether cuts of this scale are feasible. The leadership is also considering less extreme reductions, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private.

"We decline to comment on speculation," a spokeswoman for Commerzbank said. "We plan to disclose the details of our cost project the latest with our Q2 numbers. Currently, different options and scenarios are being discussed. No decisions have been taken."

Mr Zielke and Supervisory Board chairman Stefan Schmittmann have come under criticism from Cerberus, Commerzbank's second-biggest shareholder, which is lobbying for change after seeing the value of its stake eroded.

Commerzbank said in February that it's working on deeper cost cuts after Mr Zielke's previous plan, presented less than a year ago, was widely rejected by investors as disappointing.

Mr Zielke has previously missed several of his own cost-reduction targets. Four years ago, he announced a plan to cut a net 7,300 positions but ended up with a reduction of just 3,600. The lender currently has a workforce of roughly 40,000.

The new plan may double the existing cost-cutting target and increase by more than half the profitability goal, Bloomberg has reported.

It will also include a shift away from branches to focus more on digital channels, partly in response to changes in customer behaviour brought about by the coronavirus crisis.

More job cuts are heavily opposed by labour representatives, who have half of the seats on the bank's supervisory board. Some top executives are also concerned that implementing sweeping job reductions will be hard and expensive to push through, given Germany's strict labour laws. BLOOMBERG

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