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Düsseldorf / Frankfurt (Reuters) - The long-awaited consolidation of the European steel industry has to wait after Thyssenkrupp's rejection of aggressive rival Liberty Steel.
Thyssenkrupp rejected the takeover offer from the British group on Wednesday evening. The ideas about the price and the financing are too far apart, Thyssenkrupp CFO Klaus Keysberg justified the decision. The long-established group now wants to whip up the steel business on its own. This brings the subject of job cuts back to the fore. The board of directors has already announced that the planned cut of 3,000 jobs cannot continue. The union IG Metall, which had been skeptical of the Liberty offer, again demanded financial support for the group from the state.
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The two steel mills together would have forged the second largest industry giant in Europe behind ArcelorMittal Europe. The industry has been suffering from overcapacities, cheap imports from the Far East and increasingly stringent climate protection requirements for years, and the corona crisis then came on top. But the steel division is feeling the tailwind again: In the first quarter it was in the black and suddenly it is back as a profit maker. "Thyssenkrupp's steel business needs realignment and adjustment," emphasized the Krupp Foundation, Thyssenkrupp's largest single shareholder. There is no time to lose.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS BACK
IG Metall board member Jürgen Kerner welcomed the fact that there is now clarity in the matter of Liberty. "Now all resources and energies must be used to make the steel sector fit for the future." The 2030 collective bargaining agreement passed a year ago provides a good basis. "We are still convinced that, in view of the immense investment needs, it will not work without substantial commitment from the state in the form of bridge financing." There must be a clear commitment on the part of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia or the federal government for the future of steel. Kerner is also deputy head of the supervisory board of Thyssenkrupp AG.
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The federal government held back and did not want to comment on Thyssenkrupp's rejection of Liberty. "The Federal Ministry of Economics is still in an exchange with the steel industry and the social partners on the steel concept presented in July 2020 and the subsequent implementation process."
UP AND DOWN IN SHARE PRICE
With the decision on Thursday, Thyssenkrupp initially put investors on the run. Later the paper turned positive before it slipped off again. The rejection of Liberty also shows a position of strength at Thyssenkrupp, said a trader. Some experts had warned against selling the steel division - the heart and symbol of the over 200-year-old Ruhr group - below value. The management had also appeared more and more self-confident in the past few days and distanced themselves from Liberty. CFO Keysberg justified the rejection with the words: "On the one hand, the ideas about the valuation of the business were too far apart. On the other hand, there were questions about the financing structure and thus collateral, for which we ultimately could not find a common solution."
The consolidation of heavy industry in Europe is likely to come back on the agenda sooner or later. Tata Steel Europe is just as interested in this as the Swedish SSAB group or Liberty. The British group and its founder Sanjeev Gupta want to stay on the ball. "We ended the talks at this point because the asking price was too far apart. But we are keeping the door open for further talks. We believe that we can close the valuation gap in due course."
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