Siemens results Time to Deliver, Joe

Siemens presents its latest quarterly figures on Thursday and they may not make good reading for investors. Boss Joe Kaeser has asked for time to turn the company around, but patience is running out.
Trust me, I know what I'm doing: Joe Kaeser.

The capital markets are often accused of thinking too short-term, that is from one quarter to the next. Not in the case of the engineering giant Siemens.

Investors know that it's still too early for a judgment on the restructuring policy of chief Joe Kaeser, no matter what the quarterly figures reveal on Thursday. And that is why the stock price has been stagnating for months.

Mr. Kaeser will be allowed some more time to get to grips with the situation. But anyone who demands such levels of patience will eventually have to deliver.

At the moment it's all about promises for the future. Mr. Kaeser, who has been in the top job for two years, wants to restructure problematic divisions rather than sell them off at a loss.

He talks of improved communications across the firm, meaning that alarm bells now go off more quickly if something goes wrong on a major project. And as far as profitability is concerned, Mr. Kaeser says he wants to catch up with his major-league competitors and lead the company back to growth after years of stagnation.

It will be a long time before the company can again compete in the 'Champions League.'

These are fine words, but none of this will be apparent in the quarterly figures. Profit margins are in decline and revenues are sinking organically. This harks back to the time of Peter Löscher, Mr. Kaeser’s predecessor.

Of course, Mr. Kaeser can put forward good arguments to explain the instability. Siemens has been undergoing restructuring since October; business with Russia is in decline; oil-exporting countries are investing less in infrastructure. It is a sign of substance that Siemens was able to finish the business year with profits of €5.5 billion ($6.18 billion).

But it will be a long time before the company can again compete in the “Champions League,” where Mr. Löscher once saw himself. Siemens will only get there if Mr. Kaeser's risky, billion-dollar gamble on the oil business works out.

The decline in oil prices gives ammunition to the company’s skeptics. But the drop is viewed as only short-term by the inner circles at Siemens. Oil industry cycles last decades, they say.

So following that argument, Mr. Kaeser’s reign can only be judged in many years’ time. It is unlikely that the capital markets will have that much patience.


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