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Ireland Industrial group: Steel workers explain why the state should join Thyssen-Krupp - and Liberty is not the solution

08:25  18 october  2020
08:25  18 october  2020 Source:   handelsblatt.com

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Liberty Steel Group , owned by Indian-British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta, said Friday it had made a non-binding bid to acquire Thyssenkrupp 's steel unit. In a statement, the privately-held firm said it was "open to intensify the dialogue with Thyssenkrupp and would like to engage in further due diligence

Privately-held Liberty Steel has made a non-binding offer for the steel unit of German conglomerate Thyssenkrupp , the group said on Friday. " Liberty Steel is convinced that a combination with Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe can be the right answer from an economic, social, and environmental

The possible state entry at Thyssen-Krupp polarizes people. Many steel employees demonstrated for participation on Friday.

Die IG Metall fordert einen Einstieg des Staats bei der Stahlsparte von Thyssen-Krupp. © dpa IG Metall calls for the state to join the steel division of Thyssen-Krupp.

The white team buses with which thousands of steel workers traveled to the IG Metall rally on the Düsseldorf Rhine meadows on Friday can be clearly seen from the other bank. The union is calling for the state to join Thyssen-Krupp to alleviate the plight of the staggering steel giant during the corona crisis.

Right at the beginning, Jürgen Kerner, Vice Chairman of the Supervisory Board at Thyssen-Krupp and main cashier at IG Metall , makes it clear why the workforce gathers at this location despite Corona and the uncomfortable autumn weather. "We need the state entry at Thyssen-Krupp Steel," says the trade unionist in greeting. “And now!”

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Thyssenkrupp AG shares surged as the German conglomerate is expected to receive an offer for Liberty Steel expected to make offer for the business Friday. Thyssenkrupp to continue talking with The once-mighty German industrial group has built its business around steel since the 19th Century

Image caption Steel worker takes a steel sample at a blast furnace run by ThyssenKrupp in Duisburg, Germany. Tata, Thyssenkrupp and the unions all accept that the merger will mean a company that 's in better shape to prosper in a world that 's producing far more steel than it needs every year.

For weeks now, the union has been drumming for the state North Rhine-Westphalia or the federal government to participate in the steel division of Thyssen-Krupp. So far, however, both Federal Economics Minister Peter Altmaier and NRW Prime Minister Armin Laschet (both CDU) have hesitated.

Funding for climate-neutral steel

You refer to state funding with which politicians want to support steel producers in the transformation to climate-neutral production processes. But from the point of view of the trade unionists, that is not enough - also because in the case of Thyssen-Krupp many billions have to be invested to modernize the existing plants.

steel workers such as works council chief Tekin Nasikkol are furious that the country has so far been reluctant to make concrete commitments in view of the 20,000 jobs affected in the region. He sees the cause of the misery, especially with the parent company, which has missed the necessary investments for years. Now the group is no longer able to do so because of the corona crisis. The state must step in, he says.

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In fact, the corona crisis has torn a deep hole in the balance sheet of the Ruhr group. For the current financial year, the corporate management expects a negative cash flow of five to six billion euros. This is also financed by the sale of the profitable elevator division, with which Thyssen-Krupp had made around 17 billion euros in the summer.

Dramatic outflow of funds

It is true that the company is solidly financed with this financial cushion for the time being. But due to the economic slump as a result of the pandemic, the future budgets, with which the management board actually wanted to develop the remaining business, are acutely at risk.

The steel division, which accounts for the largest part of the business, is particularly hard hit. Between October 2019 and June 2020 alone, more than 840 million euros were lost here, of which only a small part could be offset by profits in other sectors.

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In order to limit the outflow of funds, Thyssen Krupp CEO Martina Merz has been looking for a partner for the steel business for several weeks. This creates uncertainty among the workforce: there is great fear that a competitor could only take over the valuable parts and close the deficit plants - also because the European steel market has long been suffering from overcapacities, which have put pressure on manufacturers' prices.

Fear of jobs

The fact that Thyssen-Krupp is not in a position to restructure the business on its own is also seen by the steel workers. "We are at the end, also because of the corona crisis," says an employee from Bochum who is also represented on the works council. "If this continues, we are really afraid for our jobs - and the location Germany ."

The majority of employees consider a sale to a foreign investor like Liberty Steel to be a bad solution. During the rally, the British steel producer made a non-binding offer for a complete takeover and IG Metall drove it into the parade.

“The investment has to come from the state - not from abroad”

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Vice-Chairman of the Supervisory Board Jürgen Kerner has doubts that Liberty is able and willing to finance the necessary investments at Thyssen-Krupp Steel. The union had agreed a total investment of around six billion euros with the current management by 2030. The state must support this, said Kerner.

But not all steel workers are enthusiastic about the idea of ​​joining the state. So a small group has formed away from the official protest area, which is against the participation of the state or the federal government in Thyssen-Krupp Steel - and thus also against the demands of most of their colleagues.

Vote against from the left wing

Among them is Peter Römmele, former works council and politician at the MLPD. He sees the board of directors as having an obligation to explain where the 17 billion euros from the sale of the elevator business have gone - and calls for government funds to be invested in public services such as the health system.

Despite the courageous plea for joining the state, the surprise guest of the day, NRW Prime Minister Armin Laschet, did not elicit a firm promise on stage. However, Laschet promised the steel workers financial support in switching from coal to hydrogen, which at Thyssen-Krupp alone is expected to cost ten billion euros.

No firm commitment from Laschet

The industry is "systemically relevant for Germany and for North Rhine-Westphalia", the CDU politician repeated his previous mantra in front of the assembled demonstrators - and was at least applauded by the steel workers.

More: Liberty Steel surprised everyone with the offer for a complete takeover. This is what the CEO of the British steel maker says about his plans .

shareholder advocates miss a clear strategy at Thyssenkrupp .
Düsseldorf (Reuters) - shareholder advocates criticize Martina Merz, CEO of Thyssenkrupp, in view of further sales of businesses. © Reuters / MICHAELA REHLE Thyssenkrupp's logo is seen outside elevator test tower in Rottweil "We still miss a clear strategy from Ms. Merz. Where does she want to lead the group?" Said the managing director of the German Association for Protection of Securities (DSW) , Marc Tüngler, on Wednesday the Reuters news agency.

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