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By Arno Schuetze, Christoph Steitz and Tom Käckenhoff
FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - Thyssenkrupp <TKAG.DE> will weed out some potential suitors for its elevator unit within the next two weeks, two people familiar with the matter said, as the closely-watched auction gathers pace regardless of the planned ousting of CEO Guido Kerkhoff.
Bidders invited to the next round will likely include private equity groups KKR <KKR.N>, Blackstone <BX.N>, CVC [CVC.UL] and Clayton Dubilier & Rice as well as strategic firms Kone <KNEBV.HE> and Hitachi <6501.T>, one of the sources said.
A consortium consisting of private equity firms Advent and Cinven and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the world's third-biggest sovereign wealth fund, is also expected to be included, the people said.
They are among the groups to receive so-called information memorandums, which include a more detailed profile of Thyssenkrupp Elevator Technology (ET), the group's most profitable division, the people said.
"It will be a larger group of bidders who will get the information packages," one of the people said. Tentative bids are due at the end of October before bidders can advance to the final round, the people said.
All parties declined to comment or were not immediately available for comment.
Thyssenkrupp shares were up 2.2% at 1258 GMT.
Kone's CEO Henrik Ehrnrooth has previously said he's keen on a deal, saying ET and Kone would be a perfect match.
The sale of ET, which analysts have valued at up to 17 billion euros ($18.6 billion), will be the most pressing job for Martina Merz, who will drop her chairwoman role in favour of the CEO job to speed up the process.
Options range from a full or partial sale of the division to a combination with a peer, most likely Finland's Kone, with Thyssenkrupp ending up owning a minority in the combined entity, people familiar with the matter have said.
A full sale of ET would likely draw opposition from labour representatives, according to people familiar with the matter, a substantial hurdle as they control half of Thyssenkrupp's supervisory board.
Merz's move to become CEO, announced late on Tuesday, shows the ongoing challenges Thyssenkrupp faces in attracting external candidates for the job after the steel-to-submarines group suffered a drastic loss of confidence among investors.
Since activist fund Elliott announced it had taken a stake in the group in May 2018, a move which was followed by a chain of events that included the resignation of top management, Thyssenkrupp shares have fallen by 45%.
It leaves Merz, who enjoys the confidence of Thyssenkrupp's two largest shareholders, Cevian and the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach foundation, taking on one of the most challenging jobs in corporate Europe.
Her appointment, which would make her Thyssenkrupp's first female CEO, must be approved by the supervisory board at an extraordinary meeting which sources said could take place as soon as this weekend, not ruling out a delay into next week.
(Reporting by Arno Schuetze, Christoph Steitz and Tom Kaeckenhoff; additional reporting by Edward Taylor; editing by Thomas Seythal and David Evans)