Thyssenkrupp steel division head says investor Kretinsky could be an option

(Reuters) – The head of Thyssenkrupp’s steel business said he was open to talks with Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky about his becoming an investor in the business, German newspaper Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) reported on Friday.

Steel CEO Bernhard Osburg told WAZ that Kretinsky’s background in the energy sector was a qualification.

“First of all, there is a logic that can’t be dismissed out of hand,” he told the paper, when asked about Kretinsky’s potential role as an investor.

A person familiar with the matter told Reuters in June that Kretinsky was interested in acquiring a stake in Thyssenkrupp’s steel business, which is currently looking for a buyer or co-owner.

Kretinsky’s holding company, Energeticky a Prumyslovy Holding (EPH), one of Europe’s largest energy groups, could also act as an energy supplier for Thyssenkrupp Steel, the person said at the time.

Thyssenkrupp resumed efforts to divest its steel division earlier this year, after the plan was shelved following failed efforts to list, sell or find a merger partner.

Other parties including Emirates Steel Arkan, Brazil’s CSN and financial investor CVC have previously expressed interest in the unit, people familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in June he would do whatever it takes to preserve the country’s steel industry by decarbonising production processes, after weeks of doubts surrounding the sector led to steel worker protests.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Leslie Adler)