Troubled steelmaker Thyssenkrupp rejects state participation

FRANKFURT AM MAIN (AFP) – German industrial giant Thyssenkrupp on Friday rejected state participation to support it during the pandemic, an option favoured by unions but judged too costly by management.

“State participation off the table,” Group’s Financial Director Klaus Keysberg told the German daily Rheinische Post on Friday.

Keysberg blamed “high costs” in the long term of government assistance, “due to the interest payments and the terms of repayment”.

Already weakened by years of cut-price competition from China in the steel industry, Thyssenkrupp has further struggled with the effects of the pandemic that caused business activity to plunge.

The company said in mid-November it would cut an additional 5,000 jobs as part of its restructuring plan, bringing the total to nearly 11,000, to be spread out over several years. Thyssenkrupp Chief Executive Martina Merz has not ruled out state assistance.

The powerful IG Metall union had organised rallies in October to demand a rescue plan from Berlin.

But the government was never enthusiastic, despite their acquisition of stakes in the airline Lufthansa and tour operator TUI, which also had business ravaged by Covid-19.

“I don’t believe that nationalisation is the right response at the moment,” Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in October on Thyssenkrupp.

But national and regional governments favour more traditional aid structures, such as subsidies, or moves to convert to production of so-called green steel. Discussions will continue to find alternatives.

The ThyssenKrupp headquarters in Essen, Germany. PHOTO: AP