Here are some updates on stories we’ve been following, plus one you probably shouldn’t read while breakfasting.
Jörg & Axel
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1. ThyssenKrupp presented their quarterly numbers this week. They were bad. Really bad.
We have previously reported on the woes of the one-time industrial icon and its main predicament - a steel business it wants to get rid of but that no one wants to buy. The company finances are in such a dire state that CEO Martina Merz announced this week that an additional 5,000 jobs will go, as losses during the fiscal year (which ended in September) amount to €1 billion. Large scale redundancies at unionized companies are rare in Germany, so it came as little surprise that metal workers union IG Metall was livid. ThyssenKrupp’s owner, hedge-fund Cevian, on the other hand thinks the layoffs are too little too late. In an interview last week, Ms Merz confirmed that she was in discussions with both the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and the federal government regarding a rescue package. But Andreas Pinkwart, North Rhine-Westphalia’s finance minister, yesterday ruled out using NRW taxpayers’ cash to prop up the ailing steel giant. He also said that money from the government’s corona-rescue fund would only come into question if the company could prove that it was not in trouble before the pandemic. That will be a pretty hard sell for Ms Merz. Mr Pinkwart is pinning his hopes on Sanjeev Gupta and his Liberty Steel. “My first impression from an intensive conversation with Sanjeev Gupta was positive,” he told business paper FAZ this week.
2. Markus Braun lifts his mask
One might wonder why Markus Braun, the disgraced former CEO of Wirecard, felt the need to remove his face mask during Thursday’s parliamentary hearing. Since he made use of his right to remain silent, he didn’t actually answer any of the questions that the parliamentarians put to him. The Austrian, who stands accused of being the ring-leader of a ‘gang’ of white-collar criminals who plundered the payment company, only said one thing - that he “now lives in Augsburg prison”. Furthermore, he generously claimed that neither German financial regulators nor the company’s auditor EY were at fault for the crime, of which he sees himself as the first victim. More interesting than Mr Braun’s stonewalling was the direction that the lawmakers’ questions took - the corporate affair has escalated into a political scandal - “Is this your first time in the Bundestag?” asked Danyal Bayaz of the Greens according to Finance Forward. Mr Braun nodded but did not answer the follow up: “Have you ever been to the Bundeskanzlerin’s office?”
3. Hip hop “agent” Arafat Abou-Chaker
We have reported a lot on the goings-on in the Berlin underworld recently. There was the spectacular heist of the Saxonian crown jewels, which three members of the Remmo clan are suspected of carrying out. That same Remmo clan - a Lebanese Großfamilie - are involved in a turf war with former Chechen insurgents, who clearly aren’t shy of a fight. Well, another storyline we reported on back in early September is the rapper Bushido turning into a crown witness against the Abou-Chacker clan. Bushido made a career out of boasting he was a Goldrapper living the gangster lifestyle. It turns out he was, in his own words, “the property” of clan boss Arafat Abou-Chaker the whole time. Testifying on Thursday, he recounted the moment when he told Abou-Chaker he wanted to break the extortionate terms of his “agent deal” (which was in reality protection money). Abou-Chaker replied: “so you’ve grown a pair?” before demanding millions of euros in compensation.
4. Kramp-Karrenbauer in need of a (French) history lesson?
“Without the nuclear and conventional defence capabilities of the USA, Germany and Europe can’t defend themselves. Those are the sobering facts.” Thus spoke Defence Minister and outgoing CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as she engaged in a verbal battle with French leader Emmanuel Macron over the future of the EU’s armies. Macron claimed that Kramp-Karrenbauer was “misinterpreting history” in her pitch to rebuild deep military ties with Washington. Interestingly the Social Democrats are on Macron’s side. A leaked policy paper revealed they have plans for a new EU defence commissioner who would command an army with battalions from all 27 member states. The CDU mocked the plan as “fantasy land” and “completely unworkable.”
5. The Pankow cannibal
Do you vaguely remember the story that was eaten up by tabloids the world over about a cannibal cop in Dresden who met his victim online? Well, Bild Zeitung has a new scoop to add to the grisly series. Berlin police have found the remains of a 44-year-old man who went missing two months ago. The discovery of a leg bone in a field in the north of the city led detectives to a maths teacher, who they suspect of meeting his victim on a dating site, before inviting him home and murdering him. Officers reportedly found a saw, as well as video material that pointed towards cannibalism.
Who we are:
Jörg Luyken: Journalist based in Berlin since 2014. His work has been published by German and English outlets including der Spiegel, die Welt, the Daily Telegraph and the Times. Formerly in the Middle East.
Axel Bard Bringéus: Started his career as a journalist for the leading Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet and has spent the last decade in senior roles at Spotify and as a venture capital investor. In Berlin since 2011.