Deutsche Bank (DB - Get Report) shares plunged Thursday after prosecutors in Germany raided the lender's Frankfurt headquarters as part of an ongoing probe into money laundering that has implicated several European banks over the past year.
Around 170 criminal prosecutors and tax inspectors were involved in the search, Frankfurt police officials said, in both Frankfurt and six other satellite locations around the country, as part of a probe into allegations that two Deutsche Bank employees assisted clients in illegal money laundering. The raid followed an allegation that Deutsche Bank was the unnamed "major European bank" that helped process around $150 billion in payments linked to the Danske Bank money-laundering scandal that was revealed earlier this year.
"As far as we are concerned, we have already provided the authorities with all the relevant information regarding Panama Papers," Deutsche Bank said in a statement provided to TheStreet. "Of course, we will cooperate closely with the public prosecutor's office in Frankfurt, as it is in our interest as well to clarify the facts. In recent years, we have proven that we fully cooperate with the authorities - and we will continue to do so."
Deutsche Bank shares were marked 2.72% lower at €8.37 each by mid-afternoon in Frankfurt, a move that extends the stocks year-to-date decline to around 50% and trims its market value to around €16 billion.
It is true that the police is currently conducting an investigation at a number of our offices in Germany. The investigation has to do with the Panama Papers case. More details will be communicated as soon as these become known. We are cooperating fully with the authorities.— Deutsche Bank (@DeutscheBank) November 29, 2018
The Frankfurt raid is the latest turmoil to sweep across Germany's largest lender, which has lost more than half its market value since asking investors for an $8.5 billion capital increase in March 2017 following a multi-billion settlement with U.S. legal authorities linked to the mis-selling of mortgage bonds in the run-up to the global financial crisis.
Deutsche Bank has targeted significant costs cuts across its global operations, including a pullback in its investment banking division in the United States, as part of a larger effort to re-align its focus to domestic and European markets amid years of losses and the failure of the second phase of the Federal Reserve's stress tests this summer over concerns with the way Deutsche Bank's U.S. division forecast future revenues in the face of a theoretical global recession, and a spike in domestic unemployment, and "material weaknesses" its data capabilities and capital planning processes.
Earlier this month, Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat dismissed the prospects of a tie-up with the troubled European lender, telling Manager Magazin, a respected business publication in Europe's largest economy, that there was "too much overlap" between Citigroup's and Deutsche Bank's businesses and that a takeover based purely on cost savings wasn't a good idea. Germany's biggest lender has been the subject of persistent takeover speculation following a series of disappointing quarterly earnings and news that activist investor Hudson Executive Capital LP, led by former JPMorgan CFO Douglas Braunstein, had built a 3.1% stake.
In June, the German business magazine WirtschaftsWoche reported that JPMorgan Chase and Industrial Commercial Bank of China could be interested in taking a stake in Deutsche Bank, amid speculation over the fate of China-based HNA Group's 7.9% holding in the German lender following the death of its chairman, Wang Jian, during a freak holiday accident in France.
HNA said at the time that Wang's stake in the China-based investment group, estimated to be around 15%, will be "addressed in due course, consistent with his pledge to donate them to charity, and in accordance with all applicable legal and regulatory guidelines."
Once that stake is passed, and the group continues to pare down its estimated $50 billion in debts via assets sales, it could seek to shift its Deutsche Bank stake now that Sewing has vowed to slim the group down and focus on domestic and European markets.