Siemens AG agreed to sell its hearing-aids unit and will raise its dividend as Chief Executive Officer Joe Kaeser completes his first year at the helm with higher earnings and pushes Europe’s biggest engineering company deeper into energy markets.
The Munich-based company will fetch 2.2 billion-euro ($2.7 billion) from the sale of the hearing-aids business, its last consumer-facing asset, to private-equity firm EQT Partners AB and Germany’s Struengmann family. Siemens shares rose as much as 1.3 percent as analysts say the deal shows Kaeser’s determination to revamp the company as quickly as possible.
“We appreciate the sale of the hearing-aids business, as with the sale a longer preparation of an IPO is avoided,” said Frankfurt-based DZ Bank analyst Jasko Terzic.
Kaeser, who took over in August last year, is concentrating on the energy business as he seeks to catch up with the profitability of General Electric Co., which has agreed to buy France’s Alstom SA to expand its own energy offering. The sale of the hearing-aids unit will help fund the 6.8 billion euros Kaeser spent to buy Rolls Royce Group Plc’s energy assets and Dresser-Rand Group Inc. to bolster offerings to the booming U.S. shale gas industry.
So-called sector profit increased 28 percent to 2.2 billion euros in the fourth quarter, in line with the average analyst estimate for 2.24 billion euros. Revenue was little changed at 20.6 billion euros.
“We delivered the results we originally promised for fiscal 2014 and made substantial progress in strengthening our portfolio,” Kaeser said in the statement.
The rising profit helped Kaeser to meet the company’s full- year targets, in contrast to predecessor Peter Loescher, who had to cut earnings forecasts five times in six years. The 167-year- old company forecast today that net earnings per share will increase by at least 15 percent in 2015, while the industrial business will generate profit representing between 10 percent and 11 percent of sales.
Siemens today also proposed to pay a dividend of 3.30 euros per share, 10 percent more than a year earlier.
“We like the dividend hike, that expresses the commitment to redistribute cash to the shareholders,” said DZ Bank’s Terzic.
Siemens shares rose as much as 1.19 euros to 90.27 euros in Frankfurt trading and were up 0.4 percent as of 12:42 p.m., valuing the company at 79 billion euros, while Germany’s DAX index was down 0.3 percent.
Kaeser, who was previously chief financial officer at Siemens, started a strategy review soon after becoming CEO as he sought to rebuild investor confidence. The resulting plan, revealed in May, has established nine divisions to replace a structure around four sectors. Kaeser also decided to cut a layer of management which could affect up to 11,600 jobs.
Siemens has already sold two health-care units this year and its stake in a household appliances joint venture. Kaeser said in May that businesses generating about one-sixth of Siemens’s revenue were unprofitable last year.
The company said today it will remain invested in the hearing-aids business with a preferred equity stake worth 200 million euros.
Siemens initially had been planning to sell shares in the hearing-aids division on the stock market, with Kaeser saying that such a move would help the business to expand as an independent entity. Market turmoil prompted him to seek a sale instead, people with knowledge of the matter have said. UBS AG advised Siemens on the transaction.
EQT doesn’t plan to cut jobs at the hearing-aids business after completing the deal, Munich-based partner Marcus Brennecke said in a telephone interview, adding that the fund plans to use its Chinese LBX pharmacy chain’s sales channels to boost revenue at the company.