Breakingviews – Corona Capital: Commerz boss, Betting, China cars


LONDON/HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) – Corona Capital is a daily column updated throughout the day by Breakingviews columnists around the world with short, sharp pandemic-related insights.


– Commerzbank

– Caesars/William Hill

– China cars

MANFRED THE MAN. Running Commerzbank is one of the least enviable jobs in banking. Yet the 5 billion euro group’s incoming Chief Executive Manfred Knof at least has experience of working at a bloated, dysfunctional German lender – he joins from Deutsche Bank, where he ran the domestic retail operations. The task is huge: steer Commerz through the fog of coronavirus bad debt, close little-used branches, prune the commercial bank, and eventually fashion a merger – potentially with his current employer.

The question is whether he’ll really be the one calling the shots given the bank’s noisy board and investor base. In addition to new Chairman Hans-Joerg Vetter, there’s pushy U.S. fund Cerberus Capital Management, powerful labour unions and a 16% government shareholder. As if starting a job in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t already hard enough. (By Liam Proud)

RED OR BLACK. Lockdowns this year emptied out William Hill’s betting shops, and pushed punters onto the UK bookie’s smartphone app. Many appear to have also piled into the company’s stock on Friday. Shares rose about 43% after it disclosed that buyout firm Apollo Global Management and U.S. casino operator Caesars Entertainment had both made takeover approaches.

Even at the time, that seemed excessive. Sure enough, William Hill and Caesars said on Monday that the possible cash offer was more like 2.9 billion pounds, below the 3.3 billion pounds level to which punters had bid up the price. Caesars Chief Executive Tom Reeg has also pulled a canny move: He’ll ditch a U.S. joint venture if Apollo buys the bookie, essentially destroying the William Hill investment case. A bidding war appears unlikely. Punters had better stick with soccer. (By Liam Proud)

CHINA ACCELERATES. The world’s largest car market can almost see the slowdown in its rear-view mirror. The pandemic followed a painful contraction in industry sales in 2019, and pent-up demand from buyers might have fuelled a recent recovery. But as executives gather in person for the Auto China show, there are grounds for optimism. After five months of sales growth, some carmakers, including Toyota Motor, forecast positive figures in the market for the full year.

Spoils aren’t evenly spread. Big, bling models and cleaner cars are ahead. The latest data dump showed sales of new-energy vehicles up by around a quarter in August, compared to a year earlier. Consumers’ plans to buy premium rides were “off the charts” in Bernstein’s September survey. Yet the same research reported close to half the respondents delaying purchases, while a third reduced their budget. The mass market isn’t quite a full throttle. (By Katrina Hamlin)

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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