By Arno Schuetze, Christoph Steitz and Tom Käckenhoff
FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF (Reuters) – Thyssenkrupp could give Britain’s Liberty Steel access to the books of its steel unit as soon as next week, three people familiar with the matter said.
Liberty Steel, headed by metals tycoon Sanjeev Gupta, last month unveiled a non-binding indicative offer for Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe, which the embattled conglomerate has put up for sale to cut losses and stop cash outflow.
His hand was strengthened due to consolidation talks between Sweden’s SSAB and Tata Steel that could result in a deal and potentially leave Liberty Steel as the sole bidder for Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe.
Thyssenkrupp declined to comment.
The company said last week it aims to make a decision on whether to sell or keep its steel unit by March.
A successful bid would cut Liberty Steel’s reliance on up to 3 million tonnes of slab and hot rolled coil it needs to buy each year to feed its manufacturing lines. Thyssenkrupp’s Duisburg plant, in turn, would be better utilised.
A takeover is also expected to raise less antitrust scrutiny than a previously failed tie-up between Thyssenkrupp and Tata Steel, according to Jefferies analysts, as both groups have limited overlap in their product portfolio and geographies.
“For steel makers looking to consolidate it may be easier to do deals if two companies have complementary portfolios rather than overlapping products,” said Andrew Zoryk, metals leader at Deloitte.
While Thyssenkrupp is strong in automotive and packaging steel – two major concerns when Brussels vetoed the Thyssenkrupp-Tata Steel deal – Liberty Steel is mostly active in construction and industrial manufacturing.
Gupta’s bid has drawn resistance from members of the IG Metall labour union. He has said transformation processes would always happen “with the full engagement of our employees and their representatives, never against them”.
(Editing by Thomas Seythal, Emma Thomasson and Bernadette Baum)