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Cobra bites Commerzbank

The Cobra is Hansgeorg Hofmann, former Merrill and Lehman syndicate chief, former board member of Dresdner Bank, who disappeared from view in December 1997 after a debacle about his tax returns.

Now he's back, stealing the thunder from Allianz CFO Paul Achleitner as the spotlight of German bank consolidation pans away from the failed Deutsche/Dresdner romance to speculation about the fate of Commerzbank. Speculation is the word. On April 19, Commerzbank chairman Martin Kohlhaussen received Hofmann and a colleague and was politely told that Cobra (Geschäftsführer one H Hofmann) had built up a 9.9% stake in his bank and expected to go to 20%.

Hofmann is the front man for German corporate raiders Clemens Vedder and Klaus-Peter Schneidewind (Cobra of Düsseldorf is 100%-owned by their Dutch vehicle Rebon NV).

Hofmann is front man because he has the banking licence necessary to hold such a large stake in a German bank. But his Dresdner background has fuelled speculation about a marriage of green and yellow (the corporate colours of Dresdner and Commerzbank). Hofmann refuses even to talk about Dresdner Bank. Many Dresdner bankers past and present still see him as big brother - and he's non-executive chairman of Equinet, an investment-banking boutique and technology incubator in Frankfurt, staffed mainly by former Dresdner colleagues.

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