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Activist investor Cevian takes axe to Thyssenkrupp stake

A general view of the ThyssenKrupp headquarters in Essen

By Christoph Steitz

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Activist fund Cevian has cut its stake in Thyssenkrupp to less than 1%, it said on Tuesday, effectively ending its loss-making engagement with the German industrial group after years of restructuring that failed to boost its share price.

Cevian, which first disclosed a stake in Thyssenkrupp in 2013, had nearly halved its stake to 7.9% a year ago after a far-reaching overhaul it had long demanded arrived too late. It most recently reduced its holding to 6.6%.

"Cevian Capital reduced its ownership in Thyssenkrupp to a small residual position of less than 1%, driven by regular portfolio management decisions," the fund said on Tuesday in a written reply to questions.

Shares in Thyssenkrupp fell 4.7% lower on the news, making them the second-biggest decliners in Germany's mid-cap index and valuing the stake Cevian has sold at more than 180 million euros ($185 million).

Refinitiv news service IFR earlier reported that Cevian sold shares at 5.15-5.40 euros apiece in a process run by UBS, indicating the fund took a loss, given Thyssenkrupp stock traded around 17-19 euros when the fund disclosed holdings.

Thyssenkrupp declined to comment.

Cevian's move comes after years of turnaround at Thyssenkrupp -- most notably job cuts, the sale of its prized elevators bsuiness and disposal of underperforming divisions -- failed to increase the company's value.

The activist investor, which holds one of the seats on Thyssenkrupp's supervisory board, had repeatedly called on management to simplify the group's structure and prepare its divisions for a standalone future to raise profitability.

The share sale also highlights Cevian's sobering track record in Germany, which includes a 26.67% stake in Bilfinger that has fallen in value since the fund first disclosed a stake in 2011.

($1 = 0.9744 euros)

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Rachel More and David Goodman)