By Tom Käckenhoff and Christoph Steitz
DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) – The collapse in Thyssenkrupp’s share price could necessitate changes to a planned breakup of the German conglomerate and even delay the move, a top-20 investor said.
The group said last year it would spin off its capital goods units – elevators, car parts and plant engineering – effectively breaking itself in two under shareholder pressure to scrap a conglomerate structure.
The spun-off units will form an independently listed company, Thyssenkrupp (DE:) Industrials, while the remaining businesses, most notably shipbuilding and materials trading, will stay with the parent, to be renamed Thyssenkrupp Materials.
Shares have fallen 41 percent since the announcement on growing scepticism over whether the move can fix the group’s operational issues, hurting the valuation of Thyssenkrupp’s assets, Ingo Speich of Deka Investment said.
“Profitable areas such as elevators have gained weight as a result. That could lead to a change in composition of the two companies to avoid an imbalance,” Speich, Deka’s head of sustainability and corporate governance, said in a telephone interview.
Deka is Thyssenkrupp’s 11th-largest investor.
Under the breakup deal, which is expected to be approved by shareholders in January 2020, Thyssenkrupp Materials will hold a minority stake in Industrials, a shareholding it is planning to sell to bring in fresh funds.
Sources have pointed out that a falling share price will create pressure on Materials to hold a higher stake in Industrials to make up for the value decrease. The legal separation of Thyssenkrupp is scheduled for Oct. 1.
“The timetable for the split is very ambitious and could be changed,” Speich said, adding this would not be a problem if the company focused more on improving its operating performance. Thyssenkrupp’s operating margin stood at 2.5 percent last year.
Given the current downturn in the car sector, Thyssenkrupp’s biggest client group, there have been concerns that the group could come under pressure reaching its 2019 profit outlook.
Several automotive suppliers have warned of falling profits in recent weeks. Analysts at Bankhaus Lampe expect Thyssenkrupp to deliver adjusted operating profit of 928 million euros ($1.04 billion), below the group’s target of more than 1 billion.
Speich said there was currently no alternative to Thyssenkrupp Chief Executive Guido Kerkhoff, who took over last year after a months of turmoil that included the resignation of both its CEO and chairman.
“He is pulling the strings and is therefore irreplaceable.”