Stefan Ettwig: Hello and welcome from Essen, dear colleagues. we.talk is back from its winter break. It's great to have you back. In 2022, I'm particularly looking forward to our first guest today in the studio, our CEO Martina Merz. Ms. Merz, it's great that you have time for us.
Martina Merz: Hello, I'm also pleased to be here again.
Stefan Ettwig: Ms. Merz, there's been a lot going on in the last two weeks. Most recently the quarterly figures, and before that the Annual General Meeting. What were the main things you learned?
Martina Merz: The main thing I took away from the meeting was that people around the company are now noticing that thyssenkrupp is on the move. The comments in the press were surprisingly appreciative. It is recognized that although we have not yet reached our goal, we are on our way. And in the journey we have set out on, we are also demanding of ourselves in order to get back to our core - of wanting to be a technology company that now also wants to use its expertise to be a key shaper of the Green Transformation. I was actually very pleased, for our employees and the teams all over the world, that everyone realizes: thyssenkrupp is moving and thyssenkrupp wants to move forward.
Stefan Ettwig: We have two years of transformation behind us, you always talked about how we need three years. The Group of Companies is on its way. Where do you see us there? In your view, what is going well and where do we still need to do something, if necessary?
Martina Merz: The transformation into a Group of Companies is indeed well underway. Our businesses have gradually implemented their action programs well. You can also see that in the earnings forecasts for the company, we are making progress with the result. Our target for this year is to return thyssenkrupp to the black. This decentralized model is also increasingly understood in the organization. I would say we are now two-thirds of the way there, with the final third still ahead of us.
Stefan Ettwig: Many of our employees are naturally asking themselves: What will the core of thyssenkrupp look like in the future? There have been reports in the press here and there about a financial holding company with associated subsidiaries. Where is thyssenkrupp headed, what is the core?
Martina Merz: The core, as I have always said from the very beginning, is what excited me even before I started working for thyssenkrupp. I see thyssenkrupp clearly as a technology company, as a company that has contributed to the further development of societies and markets with innovation for over 200 years. I think that's our core: producing technology, services, products, business models for our customers all over the world. That should also remain our common core. That takes place in very different businesses with different customers, different markets. It's very hard to find the commonality between Materials Services and Rothe Erde, for example. There is some, there are similar themes, but very few. Of course, in the end, this leads to the fact that if businesses want to develop, they become more and more specialized. This ever-increasing specialization is, of course, a burden on cohesion. It will now be up to us, while we do one thing, not to leave the other. The thing we don't want to let go of is actually keeping thyssenkrupp together. We think there are many things in common after all that are worth working on together. Ultimately you and I, Mr. Ettwig, are perhaps also an example because we say that we believe thyssenkrupp stands for something: Decency, values, the way we are. We can also work together on projects across the segments , so that ultimately creates additional value and I will also work for this additional value.
Stefan Ettwig: You have always said: We want to have a balanced cash flow this year, in other words, capital flow. We learned last week that in terms of cash flow there are still major challenges for thyssenkrupp. What makes you confident that we can still achieve our ambitious targets?
Martina Merz: First of all, of course, I'm confident that those who are closer to the business, namely those responsible in the segments, are regularly communicating their figures in the forecast up to the end of the year. With the information we have, we hope to achieve that then. In fact, we are planning to do that, and in spite of the resistance, i.e. despite this chip crisis, the supply bottlenecks. The businesses with their employees and the teams are working on very many measures to take thyssenkrupp forward. And all this makes me confident that we will achieve the target again this year.
Stefan Ettwig: What is your confidence in Steel? We have already discussed this here on several occasions. The preferred solution is independence. What are the prerequisites for this to work?
Martina Merz: The most important prerequisite is definitely that the performance of the business continues to develop as we all hope and plan. Part of this is in the hands of the team at Steel. The major extensive investment program that has been launched with Strategy 2030, which is now also being implemented step by step. At the same time, the step toward green transformation has been tackled with great commitment. Now, of course, policymakers must also create a framework in which the things we can do ourselves - on the basis of our own capabilities - are coupled with a framework that also recommends an investment for an investor - which is what we are vis-à-vis Steel. The political framework conditions for promoting steel production in Germany still need to be specified. There is still a long way to go in terms of federal and state policy.
Stefan Ettwig: There is still another way to go for our hydrogen business thyssenkrupp nucera. How do you see the chances of success there, that everything will work out?
Martina Merz: thyssenkrupp nucera has the great advantage of offering its product, water electrolysis, in one of the fastest growing markets. This strong growth also requires large investments. We have therefore decided to float thyssenkrupp nucera on the stock exchange, but we intend to remain the majority shareholder even after an IPO, and we will then be able to use the funds we generate from this IPO to grow this business and position ourselves well as thyssenkrupp in this very dynamic market right from the start.
Stefan Ettwig: You briefly touched on the subject of values earlier? I remember our last conversation when you said that thyssenkrupp doesn't have a North Star, but a whole starry sky. But now we also have the brand and our claim "engineering.tomorrow. together". Is that what unites us or is there more?
Martina Merz: I'll stay with the starry sky picture for a while, because it's just like I said before. The businesses are active in different segments, i.e. different market segments, and to that extent everyone turns on their lights in a different place. From a distance it really does look like a starry sky, but this sky is connected by what unites us, which is thyssenkrupp. What we - as I said - all want to stand for. And what we want to stand for is decency, is how we treat customers, is outstanding products, and that unites us. Of course, what unites us must ultimately also find its way into joint projects, such as employer branding. If we want to offer the best technology on the market, we also need the best trained employees. We have many of them, but we will also need new ones, and thyssenkrupp together is much stronger than any individual. And in every country in the world outside Germany, thyssenkrupp is much stronger together than alone. I don't think there's any debate that that's the case.
Stefan Ettwig: Employer branding is a perfect pass to my next question. We have GENERATIONTK. From your point of view, what is the impact on thyssenkrupp? And let's look directly ahead: Pulse Check, the second round is coming up: It starts on February 21. What results do you expect?
Martina Merz: I think GENERATIONTK is really a fantastic employer branding campaign. I think it's so accurate, I've rarely seen anything where I would say: That's not how you want to be, it's actually how you are. GENERATIONTK is like thyssenkrupp. I haven't been around that long, but it shows this diversity, different ages, man, woman, in the work clothes, in the middle of the factory. Somehow, just down to earth, powerful I would say, it really is and with aspiration. I think it's a great and very honest employer branding campaign and I'm glad that it's obviously well received externally too.
Regarding the Pulse Check, I think it's still going to reflect that there are big questions that our workforce has for us: What's next for this company. We now have the recognition that we're on our way, but the way forward is still not as well defined as many people - rightfully - want to know for themselves. After all that employees have experienced here, over a long period of time, I think it's very justified to say: Guys, why don't you get as specific as possible now? We are not yet. This Pulse Check tool allows us to have a kind of dialogue with employees. Since we use it frequently and it doesn't take long for it to be answered, we can use this dialog tool frequently now. We have a lot of discussion about what is being communicated to us. It has actual influence on what we decide, what we think and what we should do. I hope the employees feel that it actually has an impact on what we do. As I said, I think the next Pulse Check will still show that we're on our way, but we haven't arrived yet and we haven't arrived by a long shot.
Stefan Ettwig: Before the Pulse Check begins, do you want to give our employees out there something to take away with them?
Martina Merz: When I joined thyssenkrupp, I said we have to earn trust again. Trust among our employees, trust among our customers that we will be a long-term partner, trust among our investors that we are a good investment for them and ultimately of course also among our families, everyone around us - where we live. This confidence that we are thyssenkrupp and that we can make it again where we want it to be. This was my first important goal, and I believe that in the last two years we have all shown that we have really pulled together very well. I would just like to say thank you for that. That is worthy of all honor and you can feel that. Looking forward, I think that anyone who has spent these two years in this form will also manage the third year, in which we will again find ways to catch up with the front, and we will also be able to take this step together. My confidence has increased a lot, I must say. I am optimistic and look forward to continuing in the team.
Stefan Ettwig: There's no better tie-off than that. Thank you, Ms. Merz, thank you to the audience. It's great that you were here again. That was we.talk. We'll be back with exciting guests in 2022, there's plenty to talk about, see you soon.