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Siemens investors seek strategy hints from new boss

A man enters the office building of Siemens AG in Berlin September 30, 2013. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

By Maria Sheahan

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Siemens' (SIE.DE) new chief executive Joe Kaeser faces pressure from shareholders to give a flavor of how he plans to reinvent the industrial giant to catch up with more profitable rivals when he presents annual results next week.

After profit warnings and a boardroom bust-up led to his predecessor Peter Loescher's ouster in July, Kaeser said he would put the builder of products ranging from gas turbines to high-speed trains and ultrasound machines back on an "even keel" [ID:nL6N0G133X]

But Kaeser is likely to keep investors waiting until second-quarter results in May before he sets out a detailed strategy, a person familiar with Siemens' plans told Reuters.

First he will concentrate on building his new team and meeting managers and major shareholders around the world, the person said.

Siemens, Germany's second-largest company by market value, has so far declined to say when Kaeser will reveal his plans.

"It would be nice if we got a little taste (on November 7) of where Kaeser wants to go strategically," said Christoph Niesel, a fund manager at Union Investment, which holds about 1 percent of shares in Siemens.

"Maybe Kaeser could tell us at least what he doesn't think is going so well right now and thereby give us hope that something will change," Niesel said.

Siemens has fallen behind more profitable rivals such as Switzerland's ABB (ABBN.VX) and U.S.-based General Electric (GE) in recent years due to a focus on sales growth as well as poor project management that resulted in a series of one-off charges.

So far, Kaeser has made only vague references to wanting the 166-year-old group - a lumbering conglomerate with 78 billion euros ($105 billion) of annual sales - to return to its roots of "electrification".

Since he took office on August 1, Siemens' stock has outperformed the market with an 11.5 percent gain, reflecting investors' hopes that Kaeser will do a better job than his predecessor at turning the company around.

"(Former CEO) Loescher lacked a bit of vision. Now we want to know where the company wants to go, and why," said Henning Gebhardt, a fund manager at shareholder DWS.


Kaeser has already announced plans to return to a flatter management structure and improve the internal flow of information, so problems with major projects can be flagged and fixed more quickly.

This year, Siemens has booked hundreds of millions of euros worth of charges related to delays in the delivery of high-speed trains and the power link-up of offshore wind farms to mainland networks, as well as faulty wind turbine rotor blades.

Siemens' fourth-quarter report is expected to be marked by restructuring costs, project charges and gains from the sale of its stake in mobile telecoms equipment maker Nokia Siemens Networks.

In the year ended in September, Siemens spent more than 1 billion euros, more than initially planned, on a massive 6 billion euro savings program launched under Loescher.

Kaeser is expected to provide an outlook for earnings in the current financial year, in which analysts on average forecast net profit from continuing operations to rise to 5.78 billion euros from 4.17 billion.

($1 = 0.7395 euros)

(Editing by Erica Billingham)