UPDATE 1-Continental AG CEO: software unit Elektrobit is key asset for us

(Adds quotes from later summit on software staff and partnerships)

FRANKFURT/LUDWIGSBURG, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Continental AG’s automotive software division Elektrobit is a strategic asset and key to the group’s ambitions, Chief Executive Nikolai Setzer said on Tuesday.

His comments, made during the Handelsblatt Automotive Summit, came in response to a question on whether Continental could rule out a sale of the division to Volkswagen, which is expanding its own capabilities in the field via its Cariad unit.

Speaking later in the day at a separate summit in Ludwigsburg, Setzer said the company had around 17,000 staff software programmers so far, but that it was also open to expanding its capabilities in the area through partnerships with other firms.

“It is not always about the number,” Setzer said. “You need the right architects. Partnerships are also essential.” (Reporting by Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt, Victoria Waldersee in Ludwigsburg; Editing by Riham Alkousaa and Paul Carrel)