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Thyssenkrupp closer to steel joint venture as unions say yes

[FRANKFURT] Thyssenkrupp and Tata Steel are closing in on a European steel joint venture after a last-minute change to the deal terms that won approval from Thyssenkrupp's union.

In the revised deal, Thyssenkrupp will own about 55 per cent of the equity in the new company and Tata will have 45 per cent, according to people familiar with the matter. The changes happened after Thyssenkrupp's activist shareholders pressured management to squeeze better terms from the deal, which was originally a 50-50 split. The voting rights will be equally split.

The talks over the joint venture have dragged on for more than a year and faced opposition from labour representatives, as well as activist shareholders. Thyssenkrupp's labor representatives said on Thursday they would vote in favour of the joint venture, paving the way for it to go through.

Elliott Management and Cevian had argued that the terms needed to be improved after a long slump in Tata's European steel profits. The new agreement represents an increase of more than 600 million euros (S$950.6 million) for Thyssenkrupp shareholders compared with the previous deal, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details aren't public. Changes to the deal follow weeks of mounting pressure on Thyssenkrupp's Chief Executive Officer Heinrich Hiesinger by activist shareholders and labor representatives to get a better deal after profits plunged at Tata's European steel business.

Even though the union will approve the deal, Thyssenkrupp shouldn't be "scrapped like a used car," said Wilhelm Segerath, chairman of the General Works Council and a member of Thyssenkrupp's supervisory board.

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Equity investors and labor unions are equally represented on Thyssenkrupp's supervisory board, giving them both influence over the deal.

Under the new terms, Tata also agreed to pay for potential environmental risks at a coke oven of its Port Talbot plant in Wales and for investments, should it be necessary, the people said.


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