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A model of Thyssenkrupp's MULTI elevator stands in the company's test tower in Rottweil, Germany, on Jan. 21, 2020.MICHAELA REHLE/Reuters

Thyssenkrupp said on Friday it had closed the 17.2 billion euro ($20.4 billion) sale of its elevator division to private equity firms, giving the conglomerate a cash lifeline but robbing it of its best asset.

The group agreed in February to sell the division to a consortium led by Advent and Cinven, with Germany’s RAG foundation acting as a co-investor.

“Divesting the elevator business with its more than 50,000 employees was a tough decision that was not easy for anyone but it was indispensable in the interests of the whole group of companies,” Thyssenkrupp CEO Martina Merz said.

Without TK Elevator, the world’s fourth biggest elevator business, Thyssenkrupp would have made an operating loss in the last fiscal year, raising pressure to fix its other divisions, most notably steel.

Thyssenkrupp said it would use the funds to cut debt, develop some of its other businesses, pay for restructuring measures as well as to buy back around a 15% stake in the elevator business to secure its pension liabilities.

As a result of the cash inflow, Thyssenkrupp did not have to draw on a 1 billion euro credit line it secured from state lender KfW as a precautionary measure in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

TK Elevator’s new owners plan to expand the business, whose biggest rivals include Otis, Kone and Schindler.

“We see significant potential for a successful expansion, above all in Asia,” said Ranjan Sen, managing partner and head of Germany at Advent. He said the group was already in discussions with potential targets.

Bruno Schick, partner and head of the German-speaking region and emerging Europe at Cinven, said they just needed to find the right takeover targets.

“We won’t be thrifty.”

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