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.

Kaeser wants to separate the company's health care assets, many of which are located around Atlanta, from the rest of the company, possibly even spinning them off. The company has already spun off its lighting business through Osram. But, as the Rolls Royce deal shows, Kaeser does want to go big in energy, and the GE-Alstom deal could checkmate those ambitions.

Making things worse for Kaeser is that, in many ways, the Alstom operations are a better fit for GE than for Siemens. Alstom and GE have facilities near one another in Belfort, Alsace, less than an hour's drive from the German border.

France helped save Alstom a decade ago and is slow-walking the GE deal, hoping Siemens can "save" the turbine unit for Europe, protecting not only its electrical systems unit but its TGV train division, which GE doesn't want. It's Kaeser's first real crisis as CEO.

Meanwhile, about 70,000 U.S.-based Siemens employees can only watch and wonder. Kaeser's announcement late last year that Siemens would be cutting 15,000 jobs in 2014 to save $8.1 billion in costs has not had a clear follow-up.

Things looked a lot different last fall after the boardroom coup that ousted Kaeser's predecessor, Peter Loescher, following a series of profit warnings.

Promising results can be one thing. Creating those results in an uncertain world is quite another.

Siemens shareholders may yet see matching GE's performance as the good old days.

>>Read More: King Digital's Tiny Troubles

>>Read More: Imagine Twitter at $140 Per Share

>>Read More: Alibaba Files IPO With $1B Placeholder, Discloses Partnership

At the time of publication, the author owned shares of GE but held no positions in any of the other stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

More from Opinion

Apple Needs to Figure Out Its Self-Driving Vehicle Strategy

Apple Needs to Figure Out Its Self-Driving Vehicle Strategy

Throwback Thursday: Tesla, Chip Stocks, TheStreet's Picks

Throwback Thursday: Tesla, Chip Stocks, TheStreet's Picks

12 Stocks That Our Writers and Their Sources Recommend You Buy Here

12 Stocks That Our Writers and Their Sources Recommend You Buy Here

Musk Goes on Unoriginal Media Tirade

Musk Goes on Unoriginal Media Tirade

What's Happening in Video Games This Week: On the Road to E3

What's Happening in Video Games This Week: On the Road to E3