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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 00:02 GMT
Deutsche Bank faces critics at home
By Louise Cooper
BBC World Service business reporter

Deutsche Bank's headquarters in Frankfurt
Deutsche Bank is making profits, but cutting jobs

Deutsche Bank's very name signals its dominant position within Germany.

The group reported net profits of 2.5bn euros ($3.2bn; 1.7bn) last year, up 87% from the previous year.

And yet Deutsche's management team has sparked controversy in its attempts to improve the company's performance, announcing job cuts at a time when Germany's unemployment rate is at its highest since the 1930s.

With Deutsche planning to cut a total of 6,400 jobs from its domestic and global workforce, German politicians have accused the company of lacking social responsibility.

"If companies like Deutsche Bank make profits as big as this, and at the same time announce rather cynically that they will sack people and add to the high unemployment rate in Germany in order to make even bigger profits, this is incomprehensible to me," says Reinhard Butikofer, who leads Germany's Green Party.

Tough competitors

With unemployment in Germany running at 5.2 million, the bank's move to cut jobs is regarded in some quarters as 'un-German', with one commentator even suggesting the bank change its name to not include Deutsche.

It is true that we wish conditions in Germany would be comparable to what we see in the UK or the States. It would make our lives much easier
Juergen Fitschen, Deutsche Bank

But although the group is profitable, the German part of it makes low returns.

One of the problems is the retail banking business, which mainly focuses on current and savings accounts. This market is dominated by non profit making banks, the co-operatives, and public sector institutions such as the Landesbanks.

They are tough competitors for firms like Deutsche Bank which need to make profits.

The persistent weakness of the German economy also makes life difficult for the financial industry as a whole, as it increases defaults on loans and slows growth in new loans.

Domestic market

Juergen Fitschen, of Deutsche's executive committee, believes the German domestic banking business will become more profitable.

"We are confident that the already profitable business in the retail banking side can be continued, and at the same time we are already on the way to improve margins in commercial banking quite rapidly," he says.

While returns in Deutsche's domestic market may be low, Mr Fitschen says two thirds of the bank's profits come from outside Germany.

"It is true that we wish conditions in Germany would be comparable to what we see in the UK or the States. It would make our lives much easier.

"On the other hand, successfully mastering the challenges [in Germany] I believe makes us a stronger player in other markets globally," he says.

More profits

Deutsche Bank is a giant within the world's banking industry - currently it is the sixth largest bank in terms of assets.

But from a stock market valuation, it is ranked only the 23rd biggest bank in the world.

And this is the crux of the matter. Although Deutsche is a massive bank, it is not as profitable as its competitors.

Shareholders remain sceptical of the management's ability to improve returns - especially in the German business.

So for the time being, Deutsche's bosses - including Mr Fitschen - have a lot to prove.

Jurgen Fitschen, Deutsche Bank Executive Committee
"We are already on the way to improve margins."

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