The troubled shipping finance bank HSH Nordbank, originally a "land" bank established and owned by the two German states (länder) of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, has finally been sold. It is being renamed Hamburg Commercial Bank
The bank changed hands for a nominal price of €1.
Stefan Ermisch, the bank’s outgoing Chairman, said he was pleased that the change in ownership, which is new to the German banking sector, is the signpost of a new future for the bank.
The former owners, however, are more sanguine. Hamburg’s senator for financial affairs, Andreas Dressel, remarked: "The sale is not something to celebrate, but due to the heavy burden on our budget, at least it comes as a relief.”
This sentiment was echoed by his counterpart in Schleswig-Holstein, Monika Heinhold, who said “because of an irresponsible expansion strategy and a long line of mistakes, a state bank turned into a €1B graveyard." Accumulated losses for both states are believed to total some €13B.
Ermisch stated that the bank will have a leaner structure and should be more profitable. The number of employees will fall from 1700 to less than 1300. The ship financing portfolio has already been shrunk from €40B to €5.2B. Dodgy debts with a €6.2B book value will be sold for €2.5B to an investment group.
The new designated chairman of the bank, which will be renamed Hamburg Commercial Bank, is Juan Rodriguez from Spain’s Grupo Santander.