DUSSELDORF, Germany—ThyssenKrupp needs a broad overhaul in strategy carried about by a new external chief executive, as mid-term targets announced this week will not be enough to put the German group back on track, according to one of its investors.
Union Investment owns just a 0.2 percent stake in ThyssenKrupp, worth about $28 million, but has been one of the most critical shareholders of the steel-to-submarines conglomerate and repeatedly urged management to seek a deeper restructuring.
“ThyssenKrupp needs a strategy shift. This is easier to achieve when someone new comes in from the outside,” fund manager Ingo Speich said in the first public comments by an investor after the group published 2020/21 targets on Wednesday.
That included margin goals for the group’s four divisions but drew a muted market response as analysts pointed out that they were only in line with consensus forecasts.
“They won’t move the needle in capital markets. There, the main questions are who the new CEO will be and what the strategy is going to look like,” Speich said.
ThyssenKrupp has been thrown into turmoil after both its CEO and chairman resigned in July, under pressure from shareholders to revive the group’s share price, which has fallen a third since 2011.
A profit warning last week has deepened the crisis for interim CEO Guido Kerkhoff, who served as finance chief but has taken the helm until a long-term successor for Heinrich Hiesinger is found.
Former ThyssenKrupp finance chief Stefan Kirsten, former Siemens board member Siegfried Russwurm and Lanxess CEO Matthias Zachert have been tipped as potential candidates.
“(Kerkhoff) stands for the old strategy. It would send a stronger signal to capital markets if the new CEO came from the outside,” Speich said. “A good combination could be a new external CEO who will be supported by Kerkhoff.”
Speich, along with larger shareholders Cevian and Elliott, is not in favor of an outright break-up of the group but said there should be a more active management of its portfolio.
“This includes replacing some areas or strengthening them via acquisitions. This could also result in the addition of jobs,” he said.
By Tom Käckenhoff