Germany’s banks go down with the ship
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Germany’s banks go down with the ship

The shortcomings of German banking have steered it into a shipping crisis on a scale that is only now being appreciated. Shipping loans are already pulling some of the state-owned wholesale banks under water, making previous failures to properly remodel the sector even more obvious.






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The bankruptcy this autumn of one the world’s biggest container companies, Hanjin, comes at the end of a decade of oversupply of ships and low growth in trade. But for banks that might be exposed to Hanjin, especially German banks, the Korean firm’s troubles are just the tip of the iceberg. The big German banks have been hit particularly hard due to their rash pre-crisis dominance of shipping finance and a lack of sufficiently decisive action to get bad assets off their books.

Now these problems are coming to a head, partly because the shipping market has deteriorated even further over the past 18 months and partly because of the ECB’s determination to get banks to deal with their non-performing loans in the sector.

At Commerzbank, the biggest Germany-focused private-sector bank, shipping led to higher loan-loss provisions, contributing to an overall third-quarter loss this year.

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