US group buys German subprime casualty

BERLIN - US private equity group Lone Star is to take over IKB, the German bank rescued by state development bank KfW after falling victim to the subprime mortgage meltdown, KfW said Thursday.

By (AFP)

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Published: Thu 21 Aug 2008, 8:06 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:55 AM

The sale price for KfW's 91 percent stake in IKB was not disclosed with KfW saying only that it was a "low three digit million euro amount" -- meaning presumably anything between 100-300 million euros (150-450 million dollars).

IKB, a specialist in loans to small- and medium-sized business, invested heavily in securities tied to high risk subprime mortgages in the United States.

When US homeowners began defaulting on these home loans, these securities plunged in value and cost banks around the world hundreds of billions of dollars as they wrote off their investments.

In Germany, Europe's biggest economy, the first and biggest casualty was IKB. To prevent it going bankrupt it was bailed out to the tune of several billion euros gathered by the government, KfW and private German lenders.

IKB's management made a sharp exit, and KfW alone pumped in seven billion euros (10.4 billion dollars) to keep IKB a going concern.

Berlin was desperate to ensure that a German bank lending to the vital "Mittelstand" sector -- small- and medium-sized businesses -- did not collapse, but the adventure has cost the KfW dear.

It provided last year six billion euros in guarantees, a writedown on its stake has cost it 400 million euros and Ingrid Matthaeus-Maier, the bank's head, was shown the door last September.

It is also the only bank among IKB's rescuers to subscribe to a capital increase currently being carried out, an exercise that it has guaranteed to the tune of 1.25 billion euros and that has left it with a 90 percent holding.

KfW also said Thursday that it will be saddled by another charge of up to 720 million euros when the deal closes. After nearly a year trying to find a buyer it was reportedly looking for a price tag of 800 million euros.

"In order to attain the goals of the IKB rescue mission, KfW took on an extraordinarily heavy burden, but one that is not too heavy to handle," KfW chairman of the board Wolfgang Kroh said.

"What is important is that we have now closed the chapter on IKB's rescue. We do not face any more unforeseeable risks with regard to IKB. We can now go back to concentrating fully on our work as a promotional bank."

Dallas-based Lone Star saw off bids from Swedish bank SEB and fellow US private equity group Ripplewood, sources said. Two state-owned German banks, BayernLB and WestLB, were also interested but withdrew from the bidding.

The sale still needs to be approved by KfW's supervisory board and by others including BaFin, the German financial supervisory authority and the European Commission.

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