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Commerzbank third-quarter net profit slides 53 percent but outlook unchanged 

Reuters with
Difficult sentiment in Europe creating margin pressure, Commerzbank CFO says

Germany's Commerzbank on Thursday posted a 53 percent decline in net profit in the third quarter, but beat estimates, as the lender focuses on a major overhaul and left its outlook for the full year unchanged.

Net profit of 218 million euros ($249 million) was above the 211 million euros forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll but was down from 467 million euros a year earlier.

Germany's second-largest listed bank, still partly owned by the German government, is overhauling its business by reducing staff, digitizing its back office and expanding its retail customer base.

Stephen Engels, the bank's chief financial officer, told CNBC that the bank's strategy was the right one despite strong competition.

"We have substantially better profit quality this year, the growth is working we're gaining market share so from that point of view i think we're excellently positioned to go forward and execute the strategy over the next two years," he said.

"In general, we have somewhat difficult sentiment in Europe and Germany is a very competitive market and one of the things that we have clearly seen over the last quarter is the margin pressure that is still on Germany."

He echoed comments from Chief Executive Martin Zielke who said in the bank's earnings statement that "the environment remains challenging and although we have made a lot of progress, we still have some work to do."

The restructuring program, announced in 2016, is due to be completed in 2020.

The bank maintained its outlook for the full year, stating that revenue from private and small business customers would rise from 2017, while revenue from corporate clients would decline. Engels explained the rationale for the expected decline:

Commerzbank has a problem with strategy and profitability

"What we've seen since 2016 is a persistent low interest rate environment and i think we have a somewhat elevated level of discussion around Europe and budget discussion in Italy, Brexit in the U.K.. and there is a level of trade conflicts that cast some doubt on all of us," Engels told CNBC's Annette Weisbach.

He said a conflict between Italy and the European Commission over the country's spending plans would not lead to any kind of break-up in Europe. When it comes to Brexit, he said it was prudent for companies to prepare for a "hard" Brexit, where the U.K. leaves the bloc's single market and customs union abruptly in March 2019.

The bank's shares are down 33 percent so far this year.