- Deal would combine Europe's No.4 and No. 2 steel cos.
- Steel workers to protest on Friday.
- Frankfurt-listed Thyssenkrupp shares up 6%.
FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF: Privately-held Liberty Steel Group is set to make a bid for the ailing steel unit of Germany's Thyssenkrupp as soon as Friday, a source close to the process told Reuters on Thursday.
A deal would combine the continent's fourth- and second-largest steelmakers and mark the latest attempt at large-scale consolidation in Europe after a planned joint venture between Thyssenkrupp and Tata Steel was blocked in 2019.
Liberty Steel is a unit of Britain-based conglomerate GFG, which holds the family operations of commodities tycoon Sanjeev Gupta.
It has been acquisitive in Europe, most recently in France, where it bought the Hayange business previously owned by British Steel.
Active globally, the firm has 13 million tonnes of annual capacity in Europe, 72% of its total, and employs 17,000 on the continent, compared with about 27,000 steelworkers at Thyssenkrupp.
Liberty Steel was formed by Gupta last year and comprises all of his family's steel activities, with a view to a potential listing, he told Reuters.
Liberty Steel and Thyssenkrupp, whose Frankfurt-listed shares closed up 6%, both declined to comment.
News of Liberty Steel's interest, first reported by German magazine Spiegel, comes a day before planned protests by steel workers to put more pressure on the government to bailout Thyssenkrupp's steel unit, which made a nine-month operating loss of 700 million euros ($819 million).
Thyssenkrupp Chief Executive Martina Merz said earlier this week the company would consider all options for the unit, including selling a stake to the German government.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier has so far opposed the idea of the government taking a direct stake, and instead favoured support payments to help the industry transition to hydrogen-based steel production.
Thyssenkrupp is also exploring tie-ups with Germany's Salzgitter, Sweden's SSAB and Tata once again, sources have told Reuters.