August 2, 2018 / 5:31 AM / 4 months ago

Siemens CEO Kaeser plays his last card on strategy

MUNICH (Reuters) - German trains-to-turbines group Siemens launched its biggest strategy overhaul in four years, aimed at making it more nimble and profitable in the digital industrial age beyond the reign of current Chief Executive Joe Kaeser.

Siemens reported industrial profit slightly ahead of expectations in the three months to the end of June, helped by another strong performance by its Digital Factory industrial automation unit that compensated for a slump in power and gas.

But the figures were overshadowed on Thursday by the Munich company’s unveiling of its new Vision 2020+ strategy, which will trim its number of industrial businesses to three from five, giving them more autonomy.

Siemens shares fell 4.8 percent to the bottom of Germany’s blue-chip DAX as analysts asked whether the measures, designed to lift profitability by 2 percentage points from the company’s current 11-12 percent target, were ambitious enough.

“Our aspiration is to create a company that is not only successful today, but well prepared for the decade to come,” said Kaeser, who is due to step down in 2021 from the group that began as a telegraph technology business in the 19th century.

“We will shift from a one-size-fits all set-up to a purpose-driven and market-focused set-up that can readily create and adapt to disruption and foster consolidation, the 61-year-old told a news conference in Munich.

Kaeser, who has hived off Siemens’ wind power and train businesses into joint ventures and listed its medical technology unit on the stock exchange, said there was no plan to float any of the three new operating companies.

The decision to avoid a full break up of the company and continuing problems at the power and gas division - where profit halved - also weighed on the share price.

One investor expressed disappointment at the new strategy, saying it did not go far enough.

“The new strategy goes in the right direction: focusing and expanding digitalisation expertise, more individual responsibility of the individual business units, bundling of service activities and reduction of costs and bureaucracy,” said Christoph Niesel, a portfolio manager at Union Investment.

“But it was disappointing that, compared to market expectations, Siemens did not give a clear figure what cost savings and efficiency savings Vision 2020+ will achieve, and nothing about more advanced portfolio restructuring measures, primarily at Power & Gas, has been communicated,” said Niesel whose company is Siemens 10th largest investor with a 0.75 percent stake, according to Reuters data.

Industrial conglomerates like Siemens - whose activities span industrial software to medical scanners - have become increasingly unloved by investors, who favour companies with simpler businesses they can more easily value.

Rivals including Switzerland’s ABB have come under pressure from shareholders to separate weaker businesses, while General Electric (GE.N) is spinning off its healthcare business and divesting its stake in oil-services firm Baker Hughes (BHGE.N).

MANAGEMENT CHANGES

The Siemens overhaul also triggered management changes, with Lisa Davis, an American who was brought in with the 2015 acquisition of Dresser-Rand, taking charge of the new Gas and Power operating company and being offered an extended contract.

Chief Technology Officer Roland Busch becomes chief operating officer, a signal he could be a rival to board member Michael Senn to eventually replace Kaeser, who has led Siemens since 2013.

Siemens Chief Financial Officer Ralf Thomas and CEO Joe Kaeser (R) arrive for a news conference in Munich, Germany, August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

Kaiser said the new strategy created space for his eventual successor and would not box them in.

He also defended the decision to keep the power business, saying one part of the stakeholder community had greater expectations of a change than others.

“Running a company is more than just optimising one single piece of interest in a very well networked community,” Kaeser said.

“I guarantee you that what we are going to do is better than most people think at this time,” he added.

Siemens said its industrial profit rose 2 percent to 2.21 billion euros (£1.96 billion) in the three months to the end of June, just ahead of an average forecast for 2.18 billion in a Reuters poll of analysts.

Revenue fell 4 percent to 20.47 billion euros, missing expectations of 20.73 billion euros, but orders increased 16 percent to a better-than-expected 22.8 billion euros.

During April-June the Power and Gas business reported a 56 percent slump in profit, with Siemens citing “ongoing adverse markets” as customers switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, although orders jumped 54 percent.

During the quarter it sold only five large gas turbines, and Siemens said there could be further declines in the market.

But the downturn was compensated by the continued strong growth in Siemens Digital Factory industrial automation unit, which delivered the fastest profit increase of all Siemens’ industrial businesses.

Slideshow (5 Images)

The division, the jewel in Siemens crown, increased profit by 54 percent during the quarter, helped by strong growth in revenues China and the United States.

(This refiled version of the story fixes headline.)

Reporting by John Revill, additional reporting by Simon Jessop in London; Editing by Susan Fenton and Keith Weir

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