FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Large shareholders of Thyssenkrupp (TKAG.DE) and Kone (KNEBV.HE) have held talks on a potential merger of the elevator businesses of the two companies, according to a German daily.
Handelsblatt reported on Sunday that the Alfried Krupp foundation, which owns 21 percent of Thyssen, and Kone’s largest shareholder Antti Herlin have held talks about a deal. The first conversations took place as early as two years ago, but the proposal was rebuffed by Thyssen’s then-chief executive Heinrich Hiesinger, the paper said.
The foundation said it had told Kone that questions regarding the elevator unit should be referred to Thyssenkrupp. It said it had informed Thyssen’s executive board about the talks, and that it was up to the company to make decisions or respond to queries.
Thyssenkrupp declined to comment, while Kone and Antti Herlin were not immediately available for comment.
Earlier this month, the Alfried Krupp foundation, which has two seats on Thyssen’s supervisory board, said that a break-up of the industrial conglomerate would not happen, following similar remarks from the company’s chairman.
Chairman Ulrich Lehner had said that there were no plans to divest the group’s elevator unit, its most profitable business, which some investors and analysts have said would rid Thyssenkrupp’s share price of a large conglomerate discount.
By contrast, activist investor Cevian, Thyssen’s second-largest shareholder with a 18-percent stake, has been vocal in calling for a strategic review of all of Thyssenkrupp’s business areas, saying each might thrive better in a different set-up.
Speculation about Thyssenkrupp’s future intensified following the recent resignation of Hiesinger, who cited a lack of shareholder support, and who has been replaced for the interim by Chief Financial Officer Guido Kerkhoff.
Hiesinger’s resignation came only days after he clinched an historic steel joint venture deal with Tata Steel (TISC.NS) and followed months of shareholder pressure over the company’s strategy.
Reporting by Arno Schuetze and Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Catherine Evans