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Opinion

Macaskill on markets: Is Axel Weber the Otto von Bismarck of banking?

The chairman of UBS seems determined to force a wave of European banking consolidation. A merger of his firm with Credit Suisse may not be possible, but other deals are likely.

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Axel Weber’s views on the need for European bank mergers have achieved unusual prominence recently.

One media report revealing board level discussion of a possible merger between UBS and Credit Suisse was followed by a separate article disclosing that Weber has a wish list of potential partners that also features Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas.

Then at a Bank of America financial services conference in late September, a trio of senior bankers used their virtual appearances to echo the opinion that European banking consolidation is inevitable.

Two of these executives – Credit Suisse chief executive Thomas Gottstein and Deutsche’s chief financial officer James von Moltke – might hope to win senior roles in a Weber-sponsored European mega-bank; while the third – departing UBS chief executive Sergio Ermotti – is serving his final months at the pleasure of his chairman, Weber.

It was almost as though Weber had sent his lieutenants into the field in a coordinated attempt to speed the pace of a long-awaited wave of banking mergers.

Weber (below) may not need to go as far as mounting a diversionary bid for BNP Paribas if his real target is a merger of UBS and Deutsche
Axel Weber, chairman of UBS

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