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Siemens CEO says company will not break up — but will become a 'fleet of ships' instead

  • Since taking over as CEO in 2013, Joe Kaeser has sought to divest several of the firm's businesses
  • "Mediocrity was the dominating element of big conglomerates and, in the new digital age, digitalization goes exactly after mediocrity," Kaeser told CNBC on Friday
  • In August, the industrial group announced plans to float its healthcare unit in 2018

Siemens' businesses will become akin to a "fleet of ships" in order to adapt to the digital age, its chief executive told CNBC on Friday.

Since taking over as CEO in 2013, Joe Kaeser has sought to divest several of the firm's businesses. And while he has reportedly rejected the idea that he is breaking up the company, Kaeser said Friday he viewed the German group as a collaboration of businesses each thriving under its own steam.

"It's a decentralized structure which is being held together by the brand," he said.

In August, the industrial group announced plans to float its healthcare unit in 2018. At the time, Siemens said it expected to value the soon-to-be-listed Healthineers business at up to 40 billion euros ($47.1 billion). The move is designed to allow the company to raise its own funds for future acquisitions and investments in the fast-developing healthcare sector.

Healthineers is the most profitable of all of Siemens' business operations, ranging from turbines to factory software.

Digitalization follows mediocrity

In the industrials sector, companies were having to continuously adapt their business models in order to compete in a digital age, Kaeser said, before adding he was a "very firm believer" that the days of conglomerates as we know them are over.

Joe Kaeser, chief executive officer of Siemens AG, during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, May 7, 2014.
Krisztian Bocsi | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Joe Kaeser, chief executive officer of Siemens AG, during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, May 7, 2014.

"Mediocrity was the dominating element of big conglomerates and, in the new digital age, digitalization goes exactly after mediocrity," he said.

Over the past year, Siemens has merged its wind-power business with Spain's Gamesa and announced a joint venture with France's Alstom for its transportation operations.

Siemens shares were broadly flat year-to-date, underperforming relative to the Stoxx European capital goods index.