CONVENTIONAL WISDOM has it that the capital of Europe’s most powerful economy is poor, bolshie, chronically indebted and utterly reliant on subsidies from richer states. The debacle of the construction of the Berlin-Brandenburg airport, completed in 2020 nine years late and more than €4bn ($4.7bn) over budget, confirmed every prejudice about the city. A political storm is brewing over property firms and rents.
Reputations are hard to shed. But Berlin’s business circles are trying. During the tenure of Klaus Wowereit, mayor from 2001 to 2014, no firm in the DAX, the index of Germany’s bluest chips, called Berlin its home. After the DAX’s expansion on September 20th from 30 to 40 companies, five have headquarters in the city. Zalando (an online fashion retailer) and HelloFresh (a pedlar of meal kits) joined three other Berliners, Deutsche Wohnen (one of the beleaguered real-estate firms), Siemens Energy (a spin-off from the engineering giant) and Delivery Hero (a food-delivery darling), themselves recent additions. Berlin’s share of Germany’s total market capitalisation has risen since 2000 (see chart).
Before the second world war Berlin was a cradle of mighty firms such as Daimler and Siemens. After the city’s partition by the victorious allies, many companies moved their offices and factories to West Germany. Banks…