Hengeler cultivates privatisation model

Hengeler Mueller has developed a model that will allow a public sector German bank to become a private sector company for the first time.

Hengeler has developed the strategy for Landesbank Berlin, which must be put up for sale by February 2007 under the terms agreed in a deal with the European Commission.

The new structure will allow Landesbank Berlin to operate legally as a stock corporation. Although some other Landesbanks are already legal stock corporations, notably WestLB and HSH Nordbank, Landesbank Berlin will be the first to have complete ownership in the hands of private sector investors as opposed to publicly-owned institutions.

The agreed sale of Landesbank followed a decision by the parliament in the State of Berlin to give a e1.75bn (£1.46bn) rescue package to Landesbank Berlin’s parent, Bankgesellschaft Berlin (BGB), in 2002. In 2003 the Commission and BGB came to a compromise, which meant Landesbank Berlin would be put up for sale.

WestLB could also find itself under complete private sector ownership as senior members of the newly-elected North Rhine-Westphalia parliament has announced a plan to sell its current 25 per cent stake in the bank.

The changes reflect the large restructuring that is taking place in the German Landesbank sector in preparation for the loss of the state guarantee in July, which has given the banks good credit ratings and thus allowed them to borrow money inexpensively.