One-off costs push Deutsche Bank into red

Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank, said Thursday that writedowns and litigations costs pushed it into the red in the fourth quarter of last year and led to a sharp drop in full-year profits.

People walk by the logo of German company Deutsche Bank at the bank's annual general meeting in the central German city of Frankfurt on May 26, 2011. Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank, said Thursday that writedowns and litigations costs pushed it into the red in the fourth quarter of last year and led to a sharp drop in full-year profits.

Deutsche Bank said in a statement it ran up a loss of 2.167 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in the period from October to December, compared with a profit of 147 million euros a year earlier.

At a pre-tax level, too, earnings were deeply in the red to the tune of 2.569 billion euros in the October-December period compared with a year-earlier loss of 351 million euros.

The bottom-line loss was attributable to writedowns of 1.9 billion euros and litigation-related charges of 1.0 billion euros, the statement explained.

At the same time, fourth-quarter revenues grew by 14 percent to 7.9 billion euros, Deutsche Bank said.

Deutsche Bank is currently being investigated over allegations that some of its employees might have been involved in rigging the Libor and Euribor interest rates.

And one of its co-chief executives, Juergen Fitschen, is among a number of top-ranking managers under suspicion of being privy to a scheme to avoid paying sales tax in the trading of carbon emissions certificates.

The heavy fourth-quarter loss also dragged down Deutsche Bank's bottom line for the whole of 2012, when net profit declined to 611 million euros from 4.132 billion euros the year before, the bank said.

At a pre-tax level, full-year profit slumped to 1.397 billion euros in 2012 from 5.39 billion euros in 2011.

Nevertheless, Deutsche Bank said it would pay shareholders an unchanged dividend of 0.75 euros per share.

In September, the group unveiled deep cost-cutting plans which included a decisive shake-out of risky assets.

While several of the measures "had an expected material impact on our fourth quarter financial results, we are encouraged by the initial results," insisted Fitschen and his co-CEO Anshu Jain.

For example, Deutsche Bank's key Core Tier One capital ratio -- a measure of a bank's ability to withstand unforseen shocks -- rose to 8.0 percent, from less than 6.0 percent a year earlier and "significantly above our communicated target of 7.2 percent for year-end 2012.

"This development predominantly reflects strong delivery on portfolio optimisation and de-risking of non-core activities, as well as model and process enhancements," the two CEOs said.

Deutsche Bank also revealed that it was capping employees' bonuses as part of the cost-cutting measures and a drive to instil a new corporate culture within its ranks.

As the country's biggest lender, Deutsche Bank has for many people long symbolised everything that is wrong and immoral about the banking sector and its perceived culture of limitless greed.

Presenting its 2012 accounts, the group said it paid out 3.2 billion euros in variable bonuses last year, a drop of 11 percent from a year earlier.

It also trimmed the proportion of salaries that are indexed to revenues to just 9.0 percent compared with 20 percent before the financial crisis, said co-CEO Fitschen.

"A change in the corporate culture is necessary and recent events confirm this," Fitschen said.

Investors appeared to welcome the progress the bank is making and Deutsche Bank shares were outperforming the overall market, gaining 0.59 percent while the blue-chip DAX index was showing a loss of 0.49 percent.

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