Siemens Tries to Shake Off Its GE Doppelganger

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Siemens (SI) and General Electric (GE) have been virtual doppelgangers for half a decade now, with big operations in energy and health care, and with stocks on similar trajectories.

The chart below shows the companies' similar performance over the past five years.

SI Chart

SI data by YCharts

And so the new Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser, who took office last year after a revolt over those results, was at the company's "Siemenstadt" in Berlin yesterday, a former headquarters, to unveil an overhaul he says will emphasize profits over growth, and put the GE-like performance in his rear-view mirror.

The results so far are disappointing.

For its second quarter, Siemens reported 17.45 billion euros in revenue, down 2% from a year earlier, but 1.153 billion euros in net income, or 1.33 euros per share -- up 12%. Wednesday, Siemens opened at $133.60, up more than 2% over Tuesday's close.

Kaeser has promised a 15% profit improvement, but given the Ukranian crisis overhanging European businesses, he is now offering just operating profit targets for individual divisions rather than the whole company, calling the current environment "challenging."

But before Kaeser can move further in Siemens' transformation, he has to deal with a GE takeover bid.

No, GE isn't buying Siemens, although technically it could, being more than two times larger by market cap. Instead, GE wants to buy the electrical systems business of Alstom, based in France, for 12.4 billion euros. That's about $17 billion at current exchange rates. 

The French government wants Siemens to make a counter-offer to keep the company in European hands. The saga put Kaeser's big news, the 960 million Euro ($1.33 billion) purchase of Rolls Royce's turbine business, in the shade.

And Kaeser's plan, called Vision 2020, is not to go big but to go small.

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