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UPDATE 1-Bidders value elevator unit at more than $16.6 bln - Thyssenkrupp CEO

CEO@

* Financial situation is extremely tight - CEO

* Aim to complete elevator deal by end-February

* Shares down 3.6% (Recasts, adds comments)

BOCHUM, Germany, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Thyssenkrupp on Friday said bidders for its prized elevator division valued the unit at more than 15 billion euros ($16.6 billion) as the landmark transaction enters its final stretch.

A decision on the deal is expected by the end of February, Chief Executive Martina Merz told shareholders at the group's annual general meeting, adding proceeds would be used to fix the group's balance sheet and to develop its other struggling units.

"Thyssenkrupp is in an extremely tight financial situation," Merz said. "The challenges are great: our balance sheet remains weak and the performance of some of our businesses remains unsatisfactory. So we have no time to lose."

Shares in the group fell 3.6%.

Four groups remain in the bidding race for all or parts of the unit, including a tie-up of Finnish peer Kone and private equity firm CVC. Canada's Brookfield and Singapore's Temasek have also teamed up for a bid.

A consortium consisting of Advent, Cinven, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the RAG Foundation remains in the process, as does a group comprising Blackstone, Carlyle and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Merz, who also did not rule out plans for an initial public offering of the division, added that information packages would be sent to potential buyers of its Plant Technology unit, confirming an earlier Reuters story. ($1 = 0.9014 euros) (Reporting by Christoph Steitz and Tom Kaeckenhoff Editing by Michelle Martin)