Professor Russwurm, the Supervisory Board Meeting today was associated with great expectations among many. Rightfully so?

Russwurm: This additional Supervisory Board Meeting was planned a long time ago and already scheduled in autumn last year. We all had the impression at this time that Germany and Europe could slide into a serious recession. At that point it was completely unclear how big the challenges would be for thyssenkrupp or how long they would last.

That's why we decided to set another hold point after the Supervisory Board Meeting in November and before the meeting next May, to look at the development and get an update from the Executive Board on the current situation.

In this sense, the aim of today's meeting was to confirm directional decisions already taken, ideally, and to reassure ourselves that we are still on the right track – no more, but also no less.

...and that's what you did?

Russwurm: Exactly. In fact, we now see things a bit more clearly: we have made it through the winter without a gas shortage and the economy is slowly picking up some speed. That is why the group can now continue to consistently address the open strategic issues. This means that in this now more stable environment, all concentration can and must be directed back to the restructuring of thyssenkrupp.

So no real news after today's meeting?

Russwurm: There were no resolutions with a new orientation, but that was not the goal to begin with.

The group will not allow itself to be driven to second-best solutions. The other is that the group must move forward.

Siegfried Russwurm
Chairman of the Supervisory Board of thyssenkrupp AG

Ms. Merz, what does this mean for the work of the Executive Board and what are the next steps?

Merz: First of all, it means that we will continue on the path we have chosen. We want all thyssenkrupp companies to implement their respective strategies in the best possible way. To achieve this, the individual company must contribute and bring its performance up to the level of its top competitors. We give the businesses the entrepreneurial freedom they need to do this...

... can you be a little more specific?

Merz: Over the past few months, we have been working intensively with the leadership teams to prepare all businesses for future technologies and the transformation opportunities that are emerging. Now the task is to ensure that they can also take advantage of these opportunities. In terms of implementation, this will look very different for each business – both in terms of scope and time.

Does that also apply to Steel? The topic of the steel business becoming independent has once again attracted some attention in recent weeks.

Merz: Of course it also applies to Steel. We have always said that an independent structure offers Steel the best possible prospects for the future. That is still true. And that is why we are continuing on this path.

An important principal precondition for an independent positioning of Steel is the entry into Green Transformation. We have already set a decisive course for this by awarding the contract for the direct reduction plant in Duisburg. In line with our understanding as an "active owner", this is a targeted investment in the best possible development. Step by step, we are now working on further preconditions for a financially viable positioning of Steel.

What does it take to achieve this?

Merz: In addition to entering the Green Transformation, above all the current and future performance for sustainable competitiveness. The steel board is working on this under the leadership of Bernhard Osburg. We expect a further developed "Steel Strategy 2030+" in May.

Is there any truth to the rumours about talks with possible partners?

Merz: The share of energy costs in steel production has risen significantly and will continue to be high in the future. An independent steel division could enter into partnerships – and possibly gain secure access to very cost-competitive energy. This is interesting for steel and for possible partners, and thus also for us.

As an independent company, Steel can act more flexibly than in a complex corporate structure. That is why we are taking a very close look, together with Steel, at what potential partnerships can arise – even across sector boundaries. In any case, the decisive factor for us is that independence offers Steel Europe and its employees good long-term prospects for the future.

We are working on being able to recommend one or the other concrete directional decision in May. However, wherever we talk to possible partners, it is in the nature of things that we do not have this in our hands alone.

Martina Merz
CEO thyssenkrupp AG

Professor Russwurm, how does the Supervisory Board assess the progress of the transformation so far?

Russwurm: In retrospect, you can always wish that everything had happened faster. Are we satisfied? No. We already said that at the Annual General Meeting in February and the Executive Board shared this self-critical view. But the environment also has to be right. For example: If last year – during the turbulence on the capital markets – an IPO of nucera had failed, we would have been rightly criticized harshly. Now the criticism is that the IPO did not happen already. That's the way of the world. You can never please everyone. But now it's about looking ahead and now, as I said, the environment is more stable. It is a matter of picking up speed. And that is our expectation.

...that means that concrete decisions can be expected at the Supervisory Board Meeting in May?

Russwurm: That's up to the Executive Board to initiate. Two things are important to us as the Supervisory Board. Mrs Merz has already pointed out one of them quite rightly at the Annual General Meeting: The group will not allow itself to be driven to second-best solutions. The other is that the group must move forward. Here, the Supervisory Board and the Executive Board agree as well.

Then the question goes to you, Ms Merz.

Merz: We are working on being able to recommend one or the other concrete directional decision in May. However, wherever we talk to possible partners, it is in the nature of things that we do not have this in our hands alone. We are aware that this phase of the transformation process we are currently going through is also a special challenge for our employees. I can assure you that we are pressing ahead with the various processes to ensure clarity on the major strategic initiatives as quickly as possible.

Professor Russwurm, does that sound good to you?

Russwurm: Yes. Everyone must also be aware that not all the necessary clarifications are ready to be called up at the push of a button and can then be implemented right away. But concrete progress and clarification of how we can move forward toward implementation must be our common goal. On the way there, however, we will not allow ourselves to be irritated by impatient noise in the environment.

Professor Russwurm and Ms. Merz, thank you very much for the interview and for your insights.

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