So much for the sepulchral calm of a German Sunday.
On March 17th, after months of prodding from the German government and chatter in the financial press,
Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank, Germany's two largest listed lenders, said that they would begin exploring a merger.
A deal, both banks are at pains to add, is far from certain. If it happens, it would create Europe's third-biggest bank by assets,
behind Britain's HSBC (which does most of its business in Asia) and France's BNP Paribas.
It would also join together two chronic underperformers. Last year Deutsche's return on equity, a puny 0.4%, was its first positive figure for four years.
Commerzbank's has bettered last year's anaemic 3% only once since 2011.
Combining two struggling banks looks like an improbable method of creating the robust "national champion" of which German ministers have been dreaming.
Years of ultra-low interest rates and an overcrowded banking market—
most of which is served by public-sector and co-operative lenders—have sapped profitability,
even though both Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank are well capitalised and amply liquid. A merger is unlikely to change that.
Encouragement from Berlin alone is not—or should not be—reason to merge,
although the government is Commerzbank's biggest shareholder, with 15%.
The right gauge is what all the shareholders of both banks would stand to lose or gain.
You might suppose that Deutsche's should be keen on a fresh start. Its fall from grace since the financial crisis is a cautionary tale often told:
its share price has fallen by 90% since 2007; not until 2015 did it accept that its global moneymaking machine, aka its investment bank, was kaputt;
it is on its fourth chief executive in as many years; and so on.
But its smaller neighbour may have the better (or rather, less bad) end of the bargain.
To both banks, a merger brings the promise of scale, especially in retail banking.
Deutsche's share of the German market— adding its upmarket "blue" Deutsche Bank brand to the more basic Postbank—is around 11%,
according to Autonomous Research; Commerzbank's is 8%.
独立调查机构 Autonomous Research表示，德国商业银行为8%。
With one-fifth of the market, a combined entity would be by far the biggest in Germany, maybe enough to exert some pricing power.