December 5, 2017 / 7:22 AM / a year ago

Thyssenkrupp chairman rejects investor call for breakup: Handelsblatt

A logo of ThyssenKrupp AG is pictured outside the ThyssenKrupp headquarters in Essen, November 23, 2017. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

BERLIN (Reuters) - Thyssenkrupp (TKAG.DE) Chairman Ulrich Lehner has rejected investor calls to break up the industrial group and backed top management’s plan to transform the firm into a technology group, Germany’s Handelsblatt reported, citing an interview.

“Breaking up the group is not at all an issue,” Lehner was quoted as saying by the business daily in an interview published on Tuesday.

Chief Executive Heinrich Hiesinger, who has run the group since 2011, is steering the firm away from the volatile steel sector and aims to transform it into a technology group focused on car parts and elevators.

It has struck a deal to combine its European steel businesses with that of India’s Tata Steel (TISC.NS) next year and is facing pressure over the planned merger from its labor unions.

Cevian Capital, which holds around 18 percent in Thyssenkrupp, has criticized the management’s transformation course for failing to boost profitability and called for structural changes to the group to help it become more agile.

“If an investor positions itself publicly in such a way, then this hurts the company,” Lehner said.

The head of Thyssenkrupp’s supervisory board gave his backing to Hiesinger ahead of a meeting with the CEO and Cevian founder Lars Foerberg on Tuesday, according to Handelsblatt.

“The team around Heinrich Hiesinger is doing an excellent job,” Lehner said. “It has the full support of the supervisory board and I appreciate the cooperation very much.”

“A breakup is not an optional issue that one can deal with carelessly,” Lehner said. “If there was need to take action on that front, then this would also be addressed and discussed within the supervisory board.”

Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri

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