The material on this site is for financial institutions, professional investors and their professional advisers. It is for information only. Please read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy and Cookies before using this site. Please see our Subscription Terms and Conditions.

All material subject to strictly enforced copyright laws. © 2022 Euromoney, a part of the Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC.

Dance of the Cobra

Germany Inc doesn’t like outsiders, especially those challenging the fundamental building blocks of German finance. Cobra, a group of opportunistic shareholders, took on Commerzbank and forced it to consider change. But things didn’t go as planned and both sides are licking their wounds. What’s next in the game of who gets what and who pairs off with whom? David Shirreff reports

Even Hansgeorg Hofmann, larger-than-life, engagingly jovial, and one of Germany's few "real" investment bankers, finds it hard to conceal his disappointment. The German establishment has closed ranks and he - let's for the moment call him the embodiment of Anglo-Saxon-style corporate finance - is left beating vainly on their Teutonic shields.

Taking a break from shield-bashing, in his home town of Augsburg, at coffee on the terrace of the Drei Mohren hotel in the September sun, Hofmann reflects on the duplicity of Germany Inc. He explains the schizophrenia: it wants financial reform - in fact major tax reforms are under way - but when it comes to bank consolidation these "overpaid workers" who run the banks will do anything to feed their egos and save their jobs.

Thus Martin Kohlhaussen, head of Commerzbank, brought in a pair of white knights, Assicurazioni Generali of Italy and Banco Santander Central Hispano (BSCH) of Spain, in an old-fashioned cross-shareholding deal to shut out Cobra, a private club of corporate raiders and speculators. Even Kohlhaussen's friends feared he had robbed the bank of flexibility.

Hofmann is Cobra's managing director, although Cobra wasn't his idea.

You have reached premium content. Please log in to continue reading.

Read beyond the headlines with Euromoney

For over 50 years, our readers have looked to Euromoney to stay informed about the issues that matter in the international banking and financial markets. Find out more about our different levels of access below.


Unlimited access to and

Expert comment, long reads and in-depth analysis interviews with senior finance professionals

Access the results of our market-leading annual surveys across core financial services

Access the results of our annual awards, including the world-renowned Awards for Excellence

Your print copy of Euromoney magazine delivered monthly

£73.75 per month

Billed Annually


Unlimited access to and, including our top stories, long reads, expert analysis, and the results of our annual surveys and awards

Sign up to any of our newsletters, curated by our editors


Already a user?

We use cookies to provide a personalized site experience.
By continuing to use & browse the site you agree to our Privacy Policy.
I agree