Thyssen warns of job losses following 'worst year'

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GERMANY's biggest steel maker, Thyssen Stahl, yesterday warned of further job losses following what Andreas Nordmeyer, the chief financial officer, described as the worst year in the group's history.

Net losses soared to DM1.2bn ( pounds 470m) in the year to September 1993 from DM306m ( pounds 120m) the previous year. Ekkehard Schulz, chief executive, said the continuing drive to cut costs will mean a further 2,000 jobs will be lost in the 1994/5 fiscal year, bringing the workforce down to 22,000.

Mr Nordmeyer held out hope of a return to profit in the year ending September 1995. The company's restructuring measures will help to bring about an important reduction in Thyssen Stahl's losses already this year, but the European market will remain too weak for any significant turnaround.

Production this business year is expected to remain at the same unsatisfactory level, according to Mr Schulz. However, he said that the worst was over. Steel group sales fell 7 per cent to DM2.5bn in the first quarter of 1993/4 from a year earlier.

Thyssen Stahl's woes were compounded by the announcement that the loss-making eastern German steel maker, Eko Stahl, has been sold to Riva, the Italian steel firm. The Treuhand, the agency charged with privatising former East German state assets, put an end to three years of tortuous negotiations over Eko's fate by finalising the deal with Riva.

At a time when European steel makers are being forced to look for capacity cuts, big private companies like Thyssen Stahl vigorously opposed the attempts to rescue Eko Stahl.

In December of last year, the European Union finally approved substantial state aid for Eko Stahl as part of a package including steel subsidies in Italy and Spain.

The German government resisted Thyssen's lobbying, arguing that Eko Stahl represented too important an element in eastern Germany's already devastated industrial landscape.

Riva has proposed turning Eko Stahl into a modern, integrated steelworks, mainly by adding a facility for producing hot-rolled coils.

Riva is taking a 60 per cent stake in Eko Stahl, with the Treuhand retaining 40 per cent and what it terms 'extensive controlling powers'.