October 13, 2014 / 10:54 AM / 3 years ago

Commerzbank set to clear ECB stress-test hurdle: sources

The headquarters of the Commerzbank AG is pictured before the bank's annual news conference in Frankfurt February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Preliminary discussions with the European Central Bank have given Germany’s Commerzbank (CBKG.DE) no reason to believe its capital will fall below stress test requirements, two sources familiar with the talks told Reuters.

The ECB is carrying out “supervisory dialogues” with the 130 banks undergoing a landmark test to give them early warning of how they fared so that they may plan any capital raising needed. The ECB has stressed that the information is “partial and preliminary”.

Some analysts have pointed to Commerzbank as one of the few banks that may fall short of the ECB’s stringent capital requirements.

Sources familiar with the Commerzbank talks, which took place last week, said the ECB had not given any preliminary signal that would indicate that the bank would fall short of the minimum requirements.

“After the supervisory dialogue (with the ECB) there are no indications that the bank may have failed,” said one source, on condition of anonymity because the deliberations are private. A second source confirmed the dialogue result.

Shares in Commerzbank bolted higher on the news, trading up over 3 percent at 1224 GMT (0824 EDT) to position itself among the day’s top gainers in European banks .SX7P.

The review, however, is not completed. The ECB is testing how the banks value assets and assessing whether their capital is strong enough to allow them to weather future crises. The results will be published on Oct. 26.

An ECB spokeswoman said it would be premature to draw conclusions of any nature about the test results. She declined to comment on Commerzbank.

“We cannot comment on individual institutions. Any inferences drawn as to the final outcome of the exercise would be highly speculative as the results are still in preparation,” she said.

Commerzbank has sold billions of euros in real estate and other investments to lighten its balance sheet since the end of 2013, the date when the ECB took its data for use in the tests.

Markets remain on tenterhooks, with experts warning that nothing is certain until the final publication of the results.

“It is difficult to predict which banks will fail without knowing how various asset segments and stresses are being weighted,” said analysts at Fitch Ratings.

Ship financier HSH HSH.UL, 85 percent owned by the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg, has acknowledged it could fall short in the ECB test of banks’ ability to withstand financial shocks.

Schleswig-Holstein would face severe financial strain if HSH required a major capital injection, a government official said on Friday.

NERVOUS WAIT

The banks themselves will not know for sure whether they passed until Oct. 24, two days before Europe’s most powerful regulator publicly unveils precise details.

Until then, national watchdogs like Germany’s Bafin remain in intense discussions with the ECB about assumptions and parameters being employed, a process widely expected to result in several close calls among tested banks.

Banks that only marginally exceed the 5.5 percent Core Tier 1 ratio required by the ECB could be forced to take steps to boost their capital all the same, through measures like curbing dividends.

These measures would be less disruptive for shareholders than the remedies for banks that dip below the thresholds and are forced to take more radical steps like raising additional equity.

Commerzbank declined to comment but Chief Executive Martin Blessing has stressed repeatedly in the past that he believed the bank to be well-positioned to pass the test, which the ECB is carrying out before becoming Europe’s banking supervisor from Nov. 4.

Reporting by Jonathan Gould, Alexander Hübner and Eva Taylor in Frankfurt and Laura Noonan in London; Writing by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Georgina Prodhan/Ruth Pitchford

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