The offer came out of nowhere: On Friday, the British company Liberty Steel reported surprising interest in the steel division of Thyssen-Krupp on. Little is known about the details at the moment, but at least in one point the British offer clearly stands out from all others. Liberty wants to take over the business completely – unlike for example SSAB or Tata, who are reportedly only interested in part of Thyssen-Krupp Steel.
The British are thus assuming an outsider role, also because the group management in Essen has already indicated that it would favor a partial sale. But Liberty boss Sanjeev Gupta has mastered the art of seduction – and suddenly opens up an alternative for management: According to Handelsblatt information, he offers more than the current balance sheet value of the business. That would enable the Ruhr concern to withdraw from the deficit steel production without loss. Liberty thus also offers Thyssen Krupp shareholders an attractive perspective.
Gupta has also thought of the trade unions: He assures the employees that they will respect the agreements made with management so far. They envisage investments worth billions in order to modernize the aging systems again.
In addition, Liberty wants to relocate the headquarters of its European activities to Germany when the deal comes about. This can also be seen as a charm offensive against IG Metall, which sees its participation rights at risk if it is taken over by a foreign competitor.
The important question of financing remains open, however. Because Thyssen-Krupp would not be the only major transaction that Liberty currently has to finance. Only last year did the group buy various European plants from Arcelor-Mittal for around 740 million euros, and the group expanded its activities in the USA through several acquisitions. Gupta is unlikely to earn any money with it at the moment – which raises the question of whether the company, which can look back on a comparatively short history in steel production, will not take over financially with the takeover of Thyssen-Krupp.
For the other interested parties in the bidding process, who have largely held the reins in their hands due to the seemingly hopeless situation of the Ruhr concern, the offer from Liberty has nevertheless noticeably raised the bar. It is now up to them to come up with a more convincing concept – if they can.
More: Steel workers explain why the state should join Thyssen-Krupp – and Liberty is not a solution.