(Adds detail, background, comments)
By John Revill and Alexander Hübner
ZURICH/MUNICH, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Siemens board member Michael Sen is the favourite to lead its new standalone energy business, sources have told Reuters, removing one of the frontrunners from the race to succeed Joe Kaeser as head of the German industrial company.
Sen is in pole position when the supervisory board of the Munich-based company meets on Wednesday to decide who will lead the business it is spinning off and floating, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The move could clear the way for Siemens Chief Operating Officer Roland Busch to lead the trains to industrial software company when Chief Executive Kaeser steps down.
Busch and Sen have been seen as the main rivals for the post should Kaeser, who has led Siemens since 2013, leave his post when his contract expires early in 2021.
It is not known if Kaeser will seek to extend his contract, with a decision on the 62-year-old’s future expected early next year.
Siemens declined to comment on the matter on Thursday.
Sen, who spent two years at German utility E.ON before returning to Siemens in 2017, has also had responsibility for renewable energy business Siemens Gamesa, which will be rolled into the new business.
The 50-year-old executive will replace Lisa Davis, now head of the power and gas business, who is out of the running to lead the new business, the sources said.
The likely appointment of Sen was seen as positive for the power business, which has been given the working title of Powerhouse and will have annual sales of around 30 billion euros ($32.8 billion) and employ 80,000 people.
The business, which makes large gas turbines, has dragged on the performance of Siemens as the rise of renewable power triggered a collapse in demand.
“Sen would be a perfect fit,” a source said. “He knows the energy business well from his time at E.On and Gamesa, and he would be very good at negotiating with governments about energy supply, which is a large part of what the business is.”
“He has the experience and aura needed. If he wants the position, he gets it,” said another of the insiders.
Busch was appointed chief operating officer last year in addition to his duties as chief technology officer. The 54-year-old’s background in the technology side of Siemens was seen as a plus should he take over as chief executive, one source said.
Following the reorganisation announced earlier this year, the core of the new Siemens will consist of smart infrastructure and its industrial automation division after the gas and power business has been carved out and listed.
“The new, downsized Siemens needs a technician at the top who can once again convey a vision to the workforce and the shareholders,” said one of the sources.
“Siemens needs to build new technologies and grow again. Sen is suitable for one job and Busch for the other.”
$1 = 0.9137 euros Reporting by John Revill and Alexander Huebner; Editing by Michael Shields