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The puppeteer gets in a tangle

Insurer Allianz has a headache in the wake of the scrapped merger between Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank. The deal, which Allianz did much to engineer, would have given the Munich group the dream solution to its strategic problems in its home market. It still has plenty of strings to pull in the inevitable round of banking M&A moves to come. Allianz harbours a secret wish to resurrect the deal but is more likely to get an inferior version: Dresdner-Commerzbank.

Meetings of the Munich financial press club are normally sleepy affairs, involving a handful of local journalists meeting local businessmen. But on April 11, this parochial forum has become an international media inquisition. Around 70 reporters and editors cram into a long, narrow room at Munich's City Hilton hotel to grill one of the key protagonists in the abandoned Deutsche-Dresdner merger.

Paul Achleitner, the 43-year-old Austrian who became finance director of Allianz in January, sits on the end of a panel of Allianz representatives and tries to exude relaxed affability. Two of his fellow board members give worthy speeches on the evening's ostensible topics for debate: pensions, asset management and equity culture in Germany. While impatience grows among the press corps, Gerhard Rupprecht, head of the Allianz life insurance business, drones on about demographics. Achleitner then gives his own speech, on Allianz's conversion to shareholder-value. He ends it with an ironic twist: "Now I'm intrigued to see whether we will manage to discuss old-age provision for 30 minutes."

No such luck. The German press, uncomprehending about the shambolic failure of the attempted bank merger, are out for blood.

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