Deutsche Bank threat has grown

Deutsche Bank Image copyright Reuters

Last month the IMF described it as the world's most dangerous bank as it is the weakest link in the chain of globally significant financial institutions.

The threat it poses has only grown since then.

Deutsche Bank shares hit their lowest level in over three decades today as investors had their first chance to react to unconfirmed reports in Friday's German media that Angela Merkel had ruled out state financial assistance for the once mighty bank.

Shares were down over 7% today and are down 52% this year.

On paper, Deutsche Bank is worth over €60bn. It is currently valued at less than a quarter of that.

Gambit

Why is state aid even being discussed for Germany's biggest bank?

Already weak, the bank was in no shape to withstand the shock last week of US authorities first estimate of the amount it could owe to settle litigation stemming from the subprime mortgage scandal. $14bn was their opening gambit.

That is nearly triple the amount Deutsche Bank has put aside for that purpose and would put the bank's finance under life-threatening pressure.

No one expects Deutsche to pay that amount but even half that would pose a serious problem.

Germany's flag-carrying bank needs more capital - and that can come from only three places.

Bitter

It can sell stuff to raise money.

Its already started this process and hopes to sell its stake in a Chinese bank by year end. However this process has been much delayed and would only raise around $4bn.

It can sell more shares in itself to raise money.

That makes the current shares worth less each and is something current boss John Cryan has so far resisted as it would be another bitter pill for investors who have swallowed massive losses already.

Third - and very much a last resort - would be assistance from the German government.

Eight years after the financial crisis, that would not only be extremely unpopular but probably illegal under EU state aid rules.

Nevertheless, the Italian government is currently exploring ways to help its ailing banking sector and it has been thought that if Italy was allowed to bend the rules, Germany would be too.

If that option is ruled out - then Deutsche Bank is truly on its own in a world where being a bank is tough even when you have a strong balance sheet.

Deutsche Bank's is not.

The world's most dangerous bank just got more dangerous.