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Top investors to back Deutsche Bank despite uncertain future

By John O'Donnell and Arno Schuetze

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank's top three investors, who together own almost 20 percent of its stock, are likely to back its latest capital hike, people familiar with the matter said, although smaller shareholders are skeptical about its turnaround plan.

John Cryan, Deutsche's <DBKGn.DE> CEO, is likely to be able to count on the support of U.S. fund manager Blackrock, a group of Qatari investors and China's HNA Group, people familiar with their thinking said. All three declined to comment.

Cryan sought to persuade shareholders this week to spend 8 billion euros ($8.5 billion) to back another revamp, putting the bank on course to have raised more than its 26 billion euro market value in the past seven years.

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The writing has long been on the wall for investors that Deutsche Bank would seek fresh cash, but it puts them in an awkward position. If they do not take up their rights to buy further shares, their holding shrinks, eroding their influence.

However, as far back as October, funds controlled by Qatar's former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, which own the largest stake in Deutsche Bank with nearly 10 percent, have been willing to buy further shares, sources familiar with their policy told Reuters at the time.

That stance has not changed since and an official in Sheikh Hamad's office confirmed that the former prime minister had met with Deutsche Bank in recent weeks, but declined to comment.

Although low energy prices have pressured Qatar, the world's top liquefied natural gas exporter, its investors continue to buy assets around the world.

Meanwhile, China's HNA Group, which has been on an acquisition spree that has seen it expand from its traditional business of aviation and logistics into overseas financial services, owns three percent and is also set to take part, a person familiar with its thinking said.

Beijing wants to rebalance China's economy towards consumer driven services, with overseas finance seen as attractive.

Blackrock, which has close ties with Deutsche and nearly six percent of the bank's stock, is likely to take up its rights, partly because many of its funds are bound to do so because of the lender's stock market weighting.

GIVE ME THE MONEY?

However, Deutsche's finance chief and co-deputy chief executive Marcus Schenck is set to get a cooler reception when he meets smaller investors in the coming days.

"Is this just a case of 'give me the money'?" said one investor, who asked not to be named. "This is not a new plan. It's a fallback emergency plan."

Deutsche wants to underpin its global investment bank and bolster its German retail business. It bills this as a change of strategy, although many investors said it was the same as before.

"The capital raising buys them time," said Moodys' Peter Nerby. "You can go along their plan point by point and the main thing you can tick off is capital and derisking. One of the hardest things to do is to shrink your way to profitability."

Cryan has made rebuilding the bank in North America a priority. But investors say this will be difficult after it lost market share and following billions of dollars of penalties for the sale of toxic debt.

Investment banks tasked by Deutsche to win over investors said they would argue that the bank's asset management arm will thrive as an independent business after it is listed on the stock market. The bank will, however, forego some earnings.

Cryan, who scrapped plans to sell Postbank, has talked up the prospects for its German retail bank but the German market is dominated by state-backed and cooperative banks.

While welcoming the capital raise, Lisa Kwasnowski of rating agency DBRS, has doubts about Deutsche's chances of success.

"Focusing on client-focused business ... is not really a new philosophy," Kwasnowski, who analyses Wall Street banks, said.

"Everyone is doing it and Deutsche is playing catch-up."

(Additional reporting by Kathrin Jones in Frankfurt, Tom Finn in Doha and Michelle Price in Hong Kong; writing by John O'Donnell)