The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Disconto-Gesellschaft, The

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DISCONTO-GESELLSCHAFT, The. The Disconto-Gesellschaft (Disconto-Gesellschaft in Berlin) was founded in 1851 as a “credit partnership,” and in 1856 was changed into a limited liability joint-stock company under the name of “Direktion der Disconto-Gesellschaft,” with a capital of 30,000,000 marks. Its founder was David Hansemann, later Prussian Minister of Finance. Its purpose and earliest activities were in the fostering of current account business and the underwriting of German state and local loans and railway shares. In 1890 a branch was opened in London, from which dates this institution's activities in overseas matters. In 1901, on the liquidation of the house of M. A. Rothschild & Sons of Frankfort-on-the-Main, a branch was established in that city, connection being made with the Rothschild Syndicate, with which it has since been largely identified. The interests formed with this group made the Disconto-Gesellschaft a prominent factor in the underwriting of many important national and railway loans, notably the state loans of Russia, Rumania, China and Japan. In addition, in connection with other interests, it was instrumental in the financing of the Kamerun Railroad Company and the Great Venezuelan Railroad, both speculative enterprises, and the latter eventually of great financial annoyance. As a national factor, the Disconto-Gesellschaft has lent its greatest support to industry through the promotion and financing of enterprises for the development of Germany's natural resources: the mining of coal and metals, smelting, iron and steel, potash, shipbuilding, electrical development, railways, fire and life insurance, etc. It assisted in the underwriting of the 10,000,000 thaler (30,000,000 marks) 5 per cent loan for the Krupp Works, in 1874 — the first instance in Germany of the issue of fractional form bonds secured by blanket mortgage and providing for common representation of the holders of these bonds. Beginning in 1881, this institution has established or participated in the establishment of 15 important banking institutions, having 87 branches, scattered throughout Europe, Asia, South Pacific, South America and Africa; and through communities of interest has banking connections in Hamburg, Leipzig, Bremen, Mannheim and Geestmunde, these latter having 51 branches and numerous other agencies throughout the empire. In 1914 it absorbed the A. Schaaffhausen'scher Bankverein, this latter still retaining its name and clientele. Close relations have been established with other important financial and industrial institutions, its directorate having (1908) representation on the boards of 92 corporations. The capital for the same year was 170,000.000 marks; surplus, 57,592,611 marks; and annual dividend, 8 per cent. The total capital power of the Disconto-Gesellschaft group amounted to 564,747,329 marks, of which 437,786,200 marks represented capital and 126,981,129 marks surplus. Consult Riesser, Dr. J., ‘Die deutsche Grossbanken und ihre Konzentration’ (1909); ‘Germany's Economic Forces’ (1913); ‘Report on Co-operation in American Export Trade’ (Washington 1916).