Thyssenkrupp boss defends break-up as scepticism persists

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Thyssenkrupp boss defends break-up as scepticism persists

BOCHUM, Germany (Reuters) – Thyssenkrupp boss Guido Kerkhoff on Friday sought to drum up support among small shareholders for a plan to break up the steel-to-elevators group, facing criticism about the lack of concrete details over how the move will lead to better results.

Thyssenkrupp boss defends break-up as scepticism persists 1

Guido Kerkhoff, CEO of steelmaker Thyssenkrupp AG, speaks during the annual shareholders meeting in Bochum, Germany, February 1, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

Kerkhoff, who became chief executive after a tumultuous summer that saw the resignation of both the CEO and Chairman, is planning to spin off the company’s elevators, car parts and plant engineering units to become more efficient.

Shareholders are expected to vote on the plans at the next general meeting in a year’s time and are awaiting further details on the transaction – including the organisational set-up and capital markets day – during the course of the year.

“This gives us the strategic clarity we urgently need. In this way, we enable the businesses to develop faster and more dynamically,” Kerkhoff, 51, told shareholders at the group’s annual general meeting on Friday.

The spin-off group will be separately listed and renamed Thyssenkrupp Industrials, while the remaining units – materials trading, shipbuilding and a 50 percent stake in a planned joint venture with Tata Steel, will be called Thyssenkrupp Materials.

Investors have sold the stock since the landmark move was announced in September, with shares down 27 percent since then, as some of them have questioned whether the breakup of the group will really address the company’s operational problems.

In his restructuring efforts, Kerkhoff can count on the support of his two biggest shareholders – the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen and Halbach foundation and investor Cevian – which jointly hold 39 percent of the group.

Kerkhoff said that the break-up plans were also backed by Harris Associates and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, the group’s third and fourth-largest shareholders, which disclosed stakes at the end of last year.

“It’s not enough to break up the group in a materials business and a capital goods business and the belief that things will get better on their own,” said Winfried Mathes of Deka Investment, a top-20 shareholder.

“What speaks against a holding structure with five independent companies?”

DWS, Thyssenkrupp’s eleventh-biggest shareholder, had a day earlier called on the group’s management to raise profit margins and said it had reduced its actively managed position in the company following two profit warnings last year.

It still said the split was a good idea in principle.

Shares in Thyssenkrupp were up 3.5 percent at 1125 GMT, the biggest gainers among German blue-chip stocks, after Kerkhoff also said that first-quarter results, to be presented on Feb. 12, would fall, but will be in line with expectations.

“People are relieved that the results are in line with expectations and the situation hasn’t gotten worse,” an equity trader said.

($1 = 0.8730 euros)

Editing by Michelle Martin and Elaine Hardcastle

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Images are for reference only.Images gathered automatic from google.All rights on the images are with their original owners.

2019-02-03 00:32:54

Images are for reference only.Images gathered automatic from google.All rights on the images are with their original owners.

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