Business World

Saturday 16 December 2017

Germany's top banker fails to clarify his next move

German Bundesbank chief Axel Weber
German Bundesbank chief Axel Weber

Christian Vits and Boris Groendahl

Bundesbank president Axel Weber yesterday declined to clarify his career plans, leaving the future leadership of the central bank in question for a second day.

"I spoke with the German chancellor (Angela Merkel) and promised her that I would not comment before we were able to meet for another talk," Mr Weber said in a speech at an event in Vienna. "We will co-ordinate in taking all necessary decisions."

The race for the succession of European Central Bank (ECB) president Jean-Claude Trichet was thrown wide open following reports that Mr Weber may not seek a second term as head of the Bundesbank.

That prompted a drop in the euro, just as European leaders are trying to resolve a sovereign debt crisis that has shaken the foundations of monetary union.

"It's a mess," said Ken Wattret, chief eurozone economist at BNP Paribas SA in London.

"We need clarification soon but may not get it. You could conclude that he simply did not have sufficient support in the euro area and this is just one extreme example of the messy, intransparent way of the horse trading associated with allocating these posts in Europe."

Leaders need to appoint a new ECB president by the time Mr Trichet's term expires on October 31 and economists had considered Mr Weber to be the frontrunner for the job.


They are now looking at other candidates, who may include ECB council members Mario Draghi from Italy, Erkki Liikanen of Finland, Luxembourg's Yves Mersch and Nout Wellink of the Netherlands.

Mr Weber plans to step down later this year, according to sources.

That sparked speculation that he might succeed Josef Ackermann as chief executive officer of Deutsche Bank, the country's largest bank. Deutsche Bank spokesman Armin Niedermeier declined to comment.

"It will be difficult for Weber to take any position of prominence after this," said James Nixon, co-chief eurozone economist at Societe Generale in London. "It is difficult to pull out of a public position the way he did without considerable damage to one's reputation."

Mr Weber was scheduled to attend an event with ECB council member Christian Noyer, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and her German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble in Berlin today. It emerged later yesterday that Weber will not attend the German-French meeting in Berlin. Board member Andreas Dombret will take his place at the discussions, a spokesman said yesterday.

He declined to comment on whether Mr Weber would meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel today. Yesterday evening French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said she was "dumbfounded" at Mr Weber's withdrawal from the campaign to become the next ECB president.

"What a surprise," Ms Lagarde said. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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