FRANKFURT German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp (TKAG.DE) pushed back the publication of its annual financial results as talks to sell a steel plant in the United States entered the home stretch.
"ThyssenKrupp is in exclusive negotiations on the potential sale of the U.S. steel plant in Calvert, Alabama," the company said late on Tuesday, adding it was postponing publication of its earnings to December 2 from November 21.
ThyssenKrupp has been trying for more than a year and a half to find a buyer for its Steel Americas business - comprised of the plant in Calvert and a steel mill in Brazil - which has caused losses and sapped capital at Germany's biggest steelmaker for the past few years.
Brazil's Cia Siderurgica Nacional SA (CSNA3.SA) (CSN) has been seen as the most likely buyer of both Steel Americas mills, but price and ThyssenKrupp's future involvement have been seen as sticking points.
A source familiar with the situation told Reuters in September that ThyssenKrupp could give up trying to sell the plant in Brazil, having made no progress in sales negotiations with CSN.
Meanwhile, ArcelorMittal (ISPA.AS) earlier this month said it was still interested in the Calvert plant.
Analysts have said a partial sale if Steel Americas would still be better than no sale at all, though it would be a disappointment if the plant in Brazil, known as CSA - 73 percent owned by ThyssenKrupp while the rest is held by Brazil-based iron ore miner Vale SA (VALE5.SA) - remains on ThyssenKrupp's books.
The book value of Steel Americas as a whole has shrunk to 3.3 billion euros ($4.5 billion) from more than 7 billion euros, with analysts estimating Calvert accounts for about 45 percent.
That means that a sale of just the U.S. plant could bring in proceeds of around $1.5 billion to $2 billion and result in a further writedown on the value of Steel Americas, analysts have said.
Earlier on Tuesday, two bankers familiar with the matter told Reuters that ThyssenKrupp was stepping up preparations for a capital hike in a bid to shore up its strained balance sheet.
ThyssenKrupp said on Tuesday its talks to sell the Calvert plant also included a long-term contract for CSA, "a solution that would secure the value of the Brazilian steel mill."
"Whether the transaction will be brought to a successful conclusion is still open at present," it said, without saying with whom it was negotiating.
($1 = 0.7394 Euro)
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan and Harro ten Wolde; editing by Robin Pomeroy, G Crosse)