Departing Siemens CEO Kaeser takes swipe at rivals in farewell speech

ZURICH, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Siemens boss Joe Kaeser, who slimmed down the German engineering company during his tenure as CEO, on Wednesday took a parting swipe at rivals for not spotting a shift away from big industrial conglomerates soon enough.

The 63-year-old, who is stepping down after leading Siemens since August 2013, compared the share price performance of Siemens favourably with an unnamed rival.

Siemens shares have generated a total shareholder return of 136% from July 2013 to January 2021, the company highlighted in its results presentation to financial analysts.

Siemens contrasted this with the performance of shares in what it referred to as the “traditional competitor” which it said was minus 44% over the same period.

“Without the successes of the Vision 2020 restructuring concept and the strategic future orientation of Vision 2020+, our company would surely still exist. Yet certainly not with a share price of €130,” Kaeser said in a speech to the company’s shareholder meeting.

“Just like other conglomerates on this and the other side of the Atlantic that failed to see the signs of the times,” Kaeser, who is noted for being outspoken, said.

Deconsolidation and simplification has become the trend in the industrial sector in recent years.

General Electric, one of Siemens major rivals, has been trying to revitalise its performance by cutting debt and costs.

Since 2019 CEO Larry Culp has sold GE’s bio pharma business to Danaher Corp for $21 billion and also reduced its stake in oil and gas services company Baker Hughes.

During his time as CEO Kaeser reorganised Siemens - separating and floating both medical equipment maker Siemens Healthineers and the gas turbines maker Siemens Energy . He also increased profit margins and raised spending on research and development.

This simplification made Siemens better able to respond to situations like the COVID-19 crisis, said Kaeser, who will be replaced by Deputy CEO Roland Busch.

“Each of these companies can now concentrate on the specific requirements of its respective markets and quickly respond to changes,” Kaeser told the virtual event after the company’s first quarter results.

The shares of Siemens Energy and Siemens Healthineers have both risen since their listing, while the separation had also “turbo-charged” the share of Siemens AG, he said.

Siemens AG stock has risen 23% since Siemens Energy listed, outpacing the 8.2% rise of the German bluechip index.

Reporting by John Revill Editing by Jane Merriman and Keith Weir