I used this link for the 1st bold phrase: http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/gasp_1#gasp_1__4 and couldn't understand the 2nd one. Can anybody explain them for me, please?

"While UBS is one of Switzerland's two main lenders, Deutsche is Germany's only global bank. Although its misadventures in investment banking may have left it gasping for equity, the German lender is too big to fail in a way that UBS will never be. Deutsche Bank hasn't needed a bailout, but it's easy to see that with its deep ties at home, it could always get one."

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2017-05-16/hna-can-avoid-singapore-s-ubs-sour-grapes

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    It is a play on the phrase "gasping for air". A bank needs equity as creatures with lungs need air. When the lungs have too little air, we gasp for air. When banks have too little equity, they gasp for equity.
    – TimR
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 11:50

1 Answer 1


As Tᴚoɯɐuo mentions in his comment, there is a common expression "to gasp for air" which means to be about to suffocate, i.e. barely surviving. For a bank, equity is like air -- without equity the bank will surely fail, or at least barely survive.

So "gasping for equity" is simply a clever play on words.

The rest of the article makes it clear that Deutsche Bank is not actually in any danger of failure, but nevertheless it could use more equity than what it has.

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