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Deutsche chief signals possible asset job cull

GERMANY - Rolf Breuer, chairman of Deutsche Bank’s supervisory board, has signalled further job cuts the bank – possibly in its investment banking and asset management businesses – as it scrambles to meet profit targets.

In an interview with Germany’s Stern magazine, published ahead of a meeting of Deutsche’s supervisory board, Breuer said the issue of job cuts would be “intensively discussed” during the meeting.

Breuer did not provide further details, but analysts believe Deutsche is considering axing around 2,000 jobs to save an additional 500 million euros by next year. The savings would, in turn, help Deutsche meet a return-on-equity target of 25% set by chief executive Josef Ackermann.

German newspaper Handelsblatt cited JP Morgan as saying that to save 500 million euros, Deutsche could cut 1,900 back-office jobs in investment banking and asset management and another 183 jobs in trading.

According to Merrill Lynch analyst Stuart Graham, Deutsche could shed 325 million euros in costs in investment banking and another 175 million euros in asset management. He did not elaborate on how the savings would be realised.

In Frankfurt, Deutsche spokesman Armin Niedermeier declined comment on further restructuring plans. Deutsche is expected to make an announcement on this issue at the beginning of February.

Further job cuts at Deutsche’s asset management division would be a further blow to a unit that has already suffered an exodus of top executives and the recent loss of three billion pounds (4.3 billion euros) in UK pension fund mandates.

Banking sources said Breuer’s remarks - coming before Deutsche’s third-quarter earnings announcement due on October 29 - were “indiscreet at best”.

Konrad Becker, analyst at Merck Finck & Co, expects the bank to report pre-tax profit of 881 million euros. The figure is higher than the 755 million euros reported in the third quarter of 2003, but lower than the 1.17 billion euros reported for this year’s second quarter. Becker attributed the quarter-on-quarter decline to weaker trading income amid lacklustre financial markets.

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