DUISBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Thyssenkrupp should consider alternatives to a planned merger of its European steel activities with those of Tata Steel, German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Friday.
"My actual request to the company is to look at other alternatives," Gabriel said in Duisburg, Germany's largest steelmaking centre.
Gabriel added this should not happen publicly, "but in strategic sessions, maybe even with the state and with labour representatives".
Thyssenkrupp Chief Executive Heinrich Hiesinger is interested in a tie-up of the group's European steel operations with those of rival Tata Steel, but workers fear such a move would result in the loss of thousands of jobs.
"There are national (alternatives) that can be discussed, there are international (alternatives), there are alternatives in the company," Gabriel said.
Alternatives could include creating a German steel champion, possibly with peers Georgsmarienhuette and Salzgitter, although this has been played down by some in the industry.
Thyssenkrupp could also carve out and list its elevator, components technology and industrial solutions unit, according to media reports.
Talks with Tata Steel over a potential deal have been going on for more than a year, with progress expected to be made soon after the Indian group struck a deal to cut its UK pension scheme liabilities earlier this month.
Sources told Reuters last month that Hiesinger was pushing for a deal as early as September.
(Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff; Writing by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Mark Potter)