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German state premier opposes breakup of Thyssenkrupp

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FILE PHOTO: Sunflower outside of ThyssenKrupp AG headquarters in Essen

FILE PHOTO: A sunflower is seen in front of the ThyssenKrupp AG headquarters in Essen, Germany, September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - The premier of the German state where Thyssenkrupp is based on Thursday backed the company's chairman in opposing a breakup of the industrial conglomerate following the resignation of CEO Heinrich Hiesinger.

Cevian, Thyssenkrupp's second-largest shareholder with a 18-percent stake, has demanded a review of all of Thyssenkrupp's business areas, saying each might thrive better in a different set-up. Fellow investor Elliott has also called for a radical overhaul amid broad discontent over strategy.

"We want long-term development, not short term profits," Armin Laschet, the conservative prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, said after meeting managers and labour leaders in state capital Duesseldorf.

Laschet's comments echoed those by Chairman Ulrich Lehner, who was quoted on Wednesday as saying that a break-up of Thyssenkrupp was out of the question.

The Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, the group's biggest investor with a 21 percent stake, said this would not happen. Laschet, who sits on the foundation's board, urged dialogue.

"We have to get back to basics," he said. "We bear a great responsibility."

The Krupp foundation will meet on Friday and Knut Giesler, regional leader of the IG Metall industrial union, said it would be vital for it to back a "sustainable" strategy for Thyssenkrupp.

Hiesinger quit last week after failing to win unanimous board approval for a deal to spin out Thyssenkrupp's steel business into a joint venture with India's Tata Steel.

Giesler said he expected a supervisory board subcommittee, which also meets on Friday, to name chief financial officer Guido Kerkhoff as interim CEO until a successor can be found.

(Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)