Finland’s Kone loses bid to buy Thyssenkrupp’s elevator unit

GERMANY – Thyssenkrupp has announced that it has shortlisted two private equity consortia in the sale of its 16 billion-euro ($17 billion) elevator unit, dealing a blow to Finland’s Kone, which withdrew from the closely watched deal.

The transaction which is potentially Europe’s biggest private-equity deal in 13 years, is now in its last stages and could come to a head when Thyssenkrupp’s supervisory board is scheduled to meet, according to a Reuters report.

The cash-strapped conglomerate said it would focus on negotiations with two private equity consortia: one consisting of Blackstone, Carlyle and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board and another led by Advent and Cinven.

Shares in Kone plunged nearly 7% on news it had withdrawn, while Thyssenkrupp’s stock dropped as much as 3.7%, reflecting disappointment that a tie-up, which would have created the world’s largest lift maker, was now off the table.

“The remaining bidders have submitted more concrete offers. The bids are at a high level and underline the attractiveness of the business,” Thyssenkrupp said in a statement.

The elevator division is Thyssenkrupp’s most profitable business and the German group said it aimed to reach an agreement over whether to sell a majority stake or all of it.

If no agreement is reached, an initial public offering remains an option, Thyssenkrupp said, adding this would be possible from early summer.

At more than 17 billion euros, Kone – in partnership with CVC – had offered about 1.5 billion euros more than private equity suitors.

Reuters reported that labor unions, which control half of Thyssenkrupp’s supervisory board, were opposed to a deal with Kone from the get-go, fearing it would lead to substantial job cuts.

“The decision to prioritize potentially lower offers indicates, in our opinion, the desire for a cleaner sales process as financial investors should reduce risk of prolonged anti-trust clearance measures in comparison to a conceptual Kone offer,” analysts at Jefferies said.

Kone, in a brief statement, said it continued to believe that a combination of its business with Thyssenkrupp Elevator, which would have been the largest acquisition in Finland’s history, would have been strategically compelling.

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