FRANKFURT -- Thyssenkrupp posted a 77 percent drop in adjusted operating profit in the first quarter, blaming a weak automotive market.
Adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) fell to 50 million euros ($54.35 million), the group said on Thursday.
Net debt rose 52 percent to 7.1 billion euros.
The supplier's steel division, part of the group's core following a planned divestment of its elevator business, swung to a 164 million euros loss. The division was hit by rising iron ore prices and weak auto demand.
The results show just how badly the German engineering conglomerate needs to orchestrate a sale of the elevator business, which could fetch more than 15 billion euros ($16.3 billion), and stave off a broader collapse.
“The latest figures are not great,” CEO Martina Merz said. “We are convinced that we are on the right track. A decision on the elevator transaction is imminent.”
Once an emblem of German industrial prowess, Thyssenkrupp is fighting for survival. The company has been bruised by a slowdown in Chinese and German manufacturing, rising pension costs and falling demand for European steel.
It’s now entering the final stage of talks with suitors for its elevator unit, a division that’s still reaping rich profits. The supervisory board met on Wednesday to whittle the number of suitors down from four. A final decision on the buyer is expected later this month.
Worsening finances could complicate the decision-making process for the elevator sale. Some Thyssenkrupp executives and labor representatives are concerned a bid by Finland’s Kone Oyj would face a lengthy and complicated antitrust, according to people familiar with the matter.
Kone and co-bidder CVC Capital Partners have offered about 17 billion euros for the unit, Bloomberg News reported in January.
The Kone consortium has been competing with three rival bidding groups led by Blackstone Group, Advent International and Brookfield Asset Management.
Some private equity suitors have offered major Thyssenkrupp investors the chance to keep a minority stake in the elevator unit and have discussed plans to relist the business in Germany in a few years, the people said.
Bloomberg contributed to this report