Deutsche Bank's management board members were handed their first bonuses in four years, according to the bank's annual report published today. 

The management board received total pay, including bonuses, of €55.7m in 2018, up from €29.8m a year earlier, Deutsche Bank's annual report said. 

The bank's bonus pool for 2018 was €1.9 billion, down 14% from €2.3 billion a year earlier. The decline is partly due to a reduction in headcount, the bank said. 

Litigation costs are also expected to be "significantly higher" in 2019 than in 2018, the bank also said in the report.

Deutsche Bank is talking to rival Commerzbank about a proposed merger, which unions have said could result in big job cuts.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank's chief executive Christian Sewing believes there is a strong case for a merger with Commerzbank, a person with direct knowledge of his thinking said. 

Sewing's view sets the stage for a potential showdown with labour unions who fear as many as 30,000 job cuts in Germany's two biggest banks become one. 

He will also have to persuade some investors who are sceptical about the merits of a tie-up. 

The supervisory boards at both banks met separately yesterday and discussed the proposed merger, but no decisions were taken by either. 

Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank declined to comment. 

Sewing sees a merger bringing multiple benefits, including "clear" dominance in the combined bank's German home market, scale, and shared technology costs, the person said.

Deutsche Bank's chief executive Christian Sewing

Sewing also believes that a combined entity would improve the cost of funding, with "the best funding ever", the person said, adding that jobs will need to be cut with or without a merger. 

Deutsche Bank's CEO has urged investors to be patient in recent months, preferring to focus on an internal restructuring before taking on a big project, other people with knowledge of his thinking have said. 

Sewing's until now private view also contrasts with the more neutral tone set in a letter to employees on Sunday after both Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank confirmed talks. 

Sewing said then that many factors could still prevent a merger. 

Deutsche Bank would not have entered talks if the bank expected negotiations to fail, a second person with knowledge of Sewing's thinking said. 

Deutsche Bank's supervisory board debated the merger for three hours, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said after the meeting. 

Sewing informed the board about the possible merger and said the bank was at the beginning of doing due diligence, said the person. 

At Commerzbank's supervisory board meeting, labour representatives voiced concerns about the merger, another person with direct knowledge of the matter said. 

The powerful Verdi labour union, which is on the supervisory boards of both banks, has voiced fierce objections to a merger, saying that as many as 30,000 jobs are at risk over the long term. 

Together, the banks employ 140,000 people worldwide. A Verdi spokeswoman said that its position has not changed.