DUISBURG, Germany - Thyssenkrupp's interim chief executive dismissed speculation that it would pull out of its steel joint venture with India's Tata Steel in the wake of management upheaval at the German industrial conglomerate.
Last week, media reports said the implementation of the landmark deal, signed in late June, was stalling over the sudden departure of Thyssenkrupp's CEO Heinrich Hiesinger, the main architect of the transaction.
"The contrary is the case," Guido Kerkhoff told Reuters on the sidelines of a company event in Duisburg on Thursday. "We are continuing to implement the joint venture with Tata Steel with all our strength."
The deal will create Europe's second-largest steelmaker after ArcelorMittal and is expected to close at the end of this year or in early 2019, giving Thyssenkrupp a way to cut capacity in the volatile steel market.
Kerkhoff has taken the helm until a long-term successor has been found for Hiesinger. Sources told Reuters last week that he could eventually become a permanent candidate for the top job himself if a restructuring of the industrials unit goes well.
Ingo Speich, fund manager at Thyssenkrupp shareholder Union Investment, said that Kerkhoff could also serve as chief operating officer alongside a new CEO.
Whoever will take over at the group on a long-term basis is facing a debate over whether Thyssenkrupp's conglomerate structure still makes sense. Activist fund Elliott on Thursday reiterated it was not in favour of a breakup.
(Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff and Christoph Steitz; writing by Douglas Busvine; editing by Thomas Seythal and Maria Sheahan)