The eurozone debt crisis took its toll on Germany's Deutsche Bank and its investment banking businesses, sending fourth-quarter net profits down 69 percent to 186 million euros ($245.06 million).
Net profits fell far short of analyst estimates of 492.5 million euros, as compiled by FactSet, and compares unfavorably to 605 million euros in the same quarter last year.
Total net revenues were off 7 percent at 6.89 billion euos.
The results reflected the market turbulence and pessimism in the waning weeks of 2011 about Europe's chances of dealing with too much government debt in some countries amid a slowing economy. The crisis has eased somewhat since the quarter ended, with stocks rising and governments finding it easier to borrow.
But the result was still a downbeat farewell note for chief executive Josef Ackermann, who presided over his 10th and last annual press conference Thursday before leaving his post May 26.
Ackermann highlighted the full-year result — an 86 percent increase in profit for the year as a whole, to 4.3 billion euros from 2.3 billion euros in 2010. Revenue for 2011 increased 16 percent to 33.2 billion euros.
He said that the bank's increased emphasis on basic consumer banking — bolstered by its acquisition in 2010 of retail bank Postbank — had given the bank a more stable earnings basis that that provided by the more volatile investment bank profits from dealmaking and trading.
But he conceded in his speech that "we had to face extremely adverse external circumstances in the second half of 2011."
On a pre-tax basis, the bank actually lost 351 million euros. The bottom line showed a profit because of 537 million euros in tax benefits taken during the quarter for what the bank said were changes in how deferred tax benefits were accounted for.
Deutsche Bank said that the debt crisis made investors shy away from riskier investments and reduced the market activities it makes its money from. The bank's corporate and investment bank — where its mergers and acquisitions, dealmaking and securities trading businesses are housed — saw revenues drop 26 percent in the fourth quarter, to 3.4 billion euros from 4.6 billion euros a year earlier. Income from trading bonds and other debt securities fell 35 percent, while trading in equities such as stocks brought in 38 percent less revenue.
The market turmoil in Europe made meant fewer companies raised capital by issuing stocks or selling bonds, and there were fewer mergers and acquisitions. Handling those activities is how investment banks make money.
Revenues were "severely affected by lower issuance volumes and less deal activity," Ackermann said. "Markets influenced by political developments, high volatility and an impending economic slowdown weighed heavily on mergers and acquisitions as well as equity and debt origination businesses."
European officials are trying to support governments such as Italy and Spain that are struggling to maintain access to affordable borrowing so they can maintain their debt burdens without defaulting. Greece, Ireland and Portugal have had to turn to other eurozone governments and the International Monetary Fund for bailout loans after fears they might default made it impossible for them to borrow at affordable rates.
Fears a government default might lead to a financial crisis and recession have caused seesaws in stock and bond prices for more than two years. Eurozone turmoil forced the bank in October to abandon its profit estimate of 10 billion euros for 2011.
Ackermann will turn things over to a new management team of co-CEOs Anshu Jain, currently head of investment banking, and Juergen Fitschen, now head of regional management, after the bank's shareholder meeting in May.
Deutsche Bank fared better in retail banking, as its private and business clients division increased its revenues by 22 percent in the fourth quarter, reflecting the contribution from Postbank. Ackermann said that "classic" banking contributed 56 percent of the company's profits for the full year.
He said Deutsche Bank's finances were secure amid the turbulence and that it had "unrestricted access" to the funding it needed. That's in contrast to a number of European banks that have been heavily dependent on loans from the European Central Bank because they cannot borrow affordably elsewhere.
Deutsche Bank shares traded down 1.4 percent at 33.55 euros in morning trading in Germany.
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