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UPDATE 2-ABB investors ramp up pressure for Power Grids spinoff

(Recasts with Artisan Partners interview)

By John Revill and Michael Flaherty

ZURICH/NEW YORK, Sept 14 Pressure on ABB Group to turn around its performance grew on Wednesday, as another investor said the Swedish-Swiss conglomerate should separate one of its divisions.

Artisan Partners' call for ABB to spin off the Power Grids arm echoed the view of Cevian Capital, a European-focused activist investor that announced its own push for the separation on Tuesday.

Cevian's ABB stake has grown to 6.2 percent, according to a U.S. regulatory filing on Wednesday. Cevian is ABB's second-largest shareholder, Thomson Reuters data show, while Artisan is now the fourth largest.

Artisan told Reuters that it too wants the Power Grids spinoff, which would help ABB boost its profit margins. ABB is currently conducting a strategic review, the results of which will be revealed next month.

"We think that the review that they're doing with this asset is just one of the things the company can do to streamline the business," said Artisan Managing Director David Samra, who is a portfolio manager at the fund. "We view this as a first step in creating a much more focused organization."

Samra said the fund is not working in conjunction with Cevian and that ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer has been open in considering all options regarding the structure of ABB. ABB's board, however, has been less open, Samra added.

"The board has been less forthcoming," he said. "It's been very difficult to get a clear sense of direction from them."

ABB's stock price has risen 19 percent since last year.

Shares of Siemens AG, which ABB lists as a competitor in its annual report, have fared slightly better in that time, rising 20 percent. ABB's market capitalization is around $48 billion.

On Tuesday, Cevian said ABB spinning off its Power Grids division as a separate business with its own share market listing would increase the value of investors' holdings by more than 60 percent.

ABB is due to give an update about the business and its strategic review on Oct. 4.

Analysts have said they expect ABB to hang on to the business, which makes transformers, with Goldman Sachs saying in a note on Wednesday that it saw limited value creation from a separation.

"All options are being considered in our strategic review of the Power Grids business and, as we have previously said, we will give an update at our Capital Markets Day on Oct 4," an ABB spokesman said.

(Editing by Elaine Hardcastle; Editing by Will Dunham)

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