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German bankers voice fears over economic impact of looming gas crisis

·2-min read

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Top bankers in Germany voiced concerns on Monday about risks facing Europe's largest economy as worries grow about a looming gas crisis.

Germany, which is largely dependent on Russian gas to fuel its export-led economy, is bracing for a possible total halt in Russian supplies if Moscow steps up its use of gas as an economic weapon against the West during the conflict in Ukraine.

The gas issue has both contributed to and come on top of soaring inflation rates of 8%.

Christian Sewing, chief executive of Deutsche Bank, said that inflation has an "enormous disruptive potential" and increases risks of a global recession next year.

"I can't deny that I am worried about what is to come over the next 12 months," he told a conference in Frankfurt.

Bettina Orlopp, chief financial officer of Commerzbank, said at the same conference that the risks to the economy now are just as great as during the European debt crisis a decade ago.

Germany's largest lenders are both in the process of major overhauls, including staff cuts and other cost reductions, in an effort to restore sustainable profits, with some results.

But the share prices of both banks have languished for years, especially recently as concerns about gas supply have intensified.

Deutsche and Commerzbank each lost around 12% on June 23, the day that Berlin moved to the second of three stages of its energy supply emergency plan.

Both banks are down more than 20% over the past month, compared with a fall in a broad index of European banks of just 8.3%.

Earlier this year, Deutsche Bank increased its risk provisions guidance for the full year due to the war in Ukraine and the impact on the economy.

"We also note increased uncertainty with respect to potential impacts form energy supply risks in Europe," the bank said in a statement last week.

The concerns of the banks echoes those of German industry, which rely on the banks for financing.

"We are in the midst of a massive energy crisis and it has potential to turn into a massive economic crisis," Marc Spieker, the chief financial officer of German energy provider E.ON, said at the same conference.

(Reporting by Tom Sims and Marta Orosz)

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