(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Germany’s finance minister Olaf Scholz acknowledged this week that the European Union needs to make progress on cementing a banking union. The bloc’s growing reliance on American and British banks to underwrite the bulk of its capital markets activity, combined with the prospect of Brexit putting up barriers to European lenders accessing London-based capital, helps explain his new urgency.
While domestic politics is playing a part in Scholz’s newfound warmth for the project (as my colleague Leonid Bershidsky argues here) and his insistence on important red lines may hinder progress (as Ferdinando Giugliano suggests here), he described his key motivation in an article for the Financial Times succinctly:
Now that the U.K., home to London's capital markets, is on the verge of withdrawing from the bloc, we must make real progress. Being dependent for financial services on either the U.S. or China is not an option. So if Europe does not want to be pushed around on the international stage, it must move forward with key banking union projects, as well as the complementary project of capital markets union.
Companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have raised more than $78 billion in equity offerings this year. In equity underwriting, Wall Street banks are becoming more dominant as Deutsche Bank AG and BNP Paribas SA, the EU-27’s biggest players in this field, cede market share.
More than 40% of that underwriting business was led by JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. Deutsche Bank’s market share has more than halved in three years.
There’s a similar picture in the league tables for international bonds, where borrowers have raised more than $3.8 trillion this year. JPMorgan’s position as top lead underwriter in that category gives it a market share of almost 8% for the past three years, double that of Deutsche Bank. While BNP has increased its share to 4.4%, it remains well behind JPMorgan, Citi and Bank of America Corp. as well as London-based HSBC Holdings Plc and Barclays Plc.
So Scholz is absolutely right to worry that the EU risks being starved of capital if its financial services industry continues to stumble from crisis to crisis and its markets remain fragmented. The plan earlier this year to create a national banking champion by merging Deutsche Bank with Commerzbank AG — a project endorsed by Scholz — was doomed to fail. But a cross-border European champion able to compete with Wall Street and the City of London is sorely needed.
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Mark Gilbert is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering asset management. He previously was the London bureau chief for Bloomberg News. He is also the author of "Complicit: How Greed and Collusion Made the Credit Crisis Unstoppable."
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