FRANKFURT -- German steel and engineering group ThyssenKrupp AG said on Monday it would dispose of businesses with combined sales of seven billion euros ($8 billion) in a bid further to cut its high debt levels.
Thyssen also said it had bought 16.9 million of its own shares for around 406 million euros from IFIC Holding AG, owned by Iran. The move, which would have no effect on pre-tax profit, reduces Iran's stake in Thyssen to below five percent from a previous 7.8 percent.
"As a result threatened restrictions ... relating to the unrestricted market access of ThyssenKrupp subsidiaries in the United States will be avoided," the group said.
The world's biggest stainless steel producer said its supervisory board had approved plans to focus on its core steel, capital goods and services businesses with the aim of lifting group sales to 40-46 billion euros in the medium term.
"Further divestitures with sales of around seven billion euros are planned," the company said in a statement, adding that it aimed to grow its core business through organic growth and selective acquisitions.
It did not name the assets earmarked for disposal or provide a timeframe.
Thyssen is under increasing pressure from both credit analysts and equity investors to restructure, particularly after credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut its debt to "junk" status in February, citing a pension fund shortfall.
The group said last week its net debt amounted to 4.9 billion euros at the end of March, down 2.4 billion from a year ago, but it remains a worry for investors.
Thyssen said it planned to reintroduce to the market the shares bought from IFIC in the medium term.