* Financial situation is extremely tight - CEO
* Aim to complete elevator deal by end-February
* Shares down as much as 5.7% (Recasts, adds CEO comments)
By Christoph Steitz and Tom Käckenhoff
BOCHUM, Germany, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Thyssenkrupp boss Martina Merz on Friday mapped out in more detail the restructuring of the ailing conglomerate, saying a deal to sell its elevator unit was near and inviting suitors to look at its steel and plant building units.
Once a symbol of Germany’s industrial prowess, Thyssenkrupp is battling 12.4 billion euros ($13.8 billion) in debt and pension liabilities, the result of years of ill-fated investment and the delay of necessary restructuring steps.
The group now needs to find a buyer for its elevator division, which is valued at more than twice the group’s current market capitalisation of around 7.3 billion euros ($8.06 bln) and seen as the only asset that can fix Thyssenkrupp’s balance sheet.
“Thyssenkrupp is in an extremely tight financial situation,” Merz told shareholders at the group’s annual general meeting. “The challenges are great: our balance sheet remains weak and the performance of some of our businesses remains unsatisfactory. So we have no time to lose.”
She said initial bids for its elevator unit came in at more than 15 billion euros, adding that a decision will be made by the end of February and that proceeds would be used to cut debt and develop its other struggling businesses.
Shares fell as much as 5.7%.
Four groups remain in the bidding race for all or parts of the unit, including a tie-up of Finnish peer Kone and private equity firm CVC. Canada’s Brookfield and Singapore’s Temasek have also teamed up for a bid.
A consortium consisting of Advent, Cinven, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the RAG Foundation remains in the process, as does a group comprising Blackstone, Carlyle and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
Merz said that an initial public offering of the elevator division was also still an option.
The car parts-to-submarines company also said it has made progress regarding to strategic options for its Plant Technology division, which builds cement, chemicals and fertiliser plants.
Merz said that information packages were being sent to parties that could be interested in buying the division or entering alliances, confirming an earlier Reuters story.
Its steel division, too, is open to talks with rivals about consolidation in the European industry, Merz said.
“We remain convinced that alliances or consolidation are the best way forward for the European steel industry, with a view to both the overcapacities in Europe and the forthcoming transformation to climate-neutral steel.” ($1 = 0.9014 euros) (Editing by Michelle Martin and Louise Heavens)