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Breakingviews: HVB's next tasks may be the hardest

Source: www.breakingviews.com is Europe's leading financial commentary service

Date: August 2003

By Jonathan Ford

HVB's share price has more than doubled since the end of March. So is the troubled German bank out of the woods?

Earlier this year, HVB set itself a hugely ambitious reconstruction plan, pledging to reduce its e340 billion of risk-weighted assets by e100 billion by the end of this year. The goal was to strengthen its thin capital base and so stave off another downgrade of its weak credit rating.

Investors were cynical. German banks have a poor record of honouring even the most modest promises. But HVB has started to deliver. It has floated off one subsidiary, Bank Austria, and sold a smaller one. It has also securitized, cut or not renewed loans with an estimated risk weighting of about e20 billion.

The easiest half first In a matter of months, HVB has strengthened its tier 1 capital ratio from 5.6% to an estimated 6.4% - well on the way to its target for the year of 7%.

So is HVB more than halfway there? Unfortunately not. With a lot of tasks on its plate, it has done the easy ones first.

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