Heinrich von Pierer is fighting calls to resign as chairman over his role in the German industrial group's €500 million corruption scandal.
Heinrich von Pierer, who ran Siemens for 13 years until 2005, is resisting fierce pressure to resign as chairman later this month over his role in the bribery and corruption scandal that has cost Germany's leading industrial group at least €500 million (£339 million) and led to the arrest and trial of senior managers. Union members of the group's supervisory board have formed an alliance with shareholder representatives to press von Pierer, chief executive when the alleged criminal offences took place, to quit at the next board meeting on April 25, sources confirm. His contract runs until January 2008.
The pressure to remove von Pierer, who has already resigned from the audit committee investigating the bribery scandal, is coming from the engineering union IG Metall. The union, which has previously been responsible for brokering boardroom changes at VW, has separately filed charges that Siemens illegally handed over money to a tiny rival body, the AUB. Von Pierer, a close adviser to Chancellor Angela Merkel and a doctor of law, is to resist premature resignation at talks with the union and other board members. Amid suggestions that the group systematically paid bribes under von Pierer's watch to win overseas contracts and political favors, IG Metall itself has been implicated in the five-month scandal after being fingered by the head of the group's work council Ralf Heckmann, a union member.
Last week Johannes Feldmeyer, the first executive director arrested and held on remand on suspicion of breach of fiduciary duty, was released on bail. Prosecutors believe he was involved in the suspicious union payments, including €14 million to the then AUB head Wilhelm Schelsky. Von Pierer denies any wrongdoing and told the group's annual meeting in January of his "deep distress" that his efforts to ensure full compliance with corporate government codes had visibly failed - investors rewarded his studiedly contrite performance with a 34% vote against formal approval of his role as a director. His resignation would strengthen the hand of Klaus Kleinfeld, his successor as chief executive who has been dismantling many of the industrial structures set up by von Pierer and selling off under-performing divisions.
He is likely to be replaced by Gerhard Cromme, ThyssenKrupp chairman and architect of Germany's corporate governance code which Siemens breached by making von Pierer chairman immediately after he stepped down as chief exec. Cromme, as chairman of Siemens' audit committee, has brought in two outside law firms to investigate the apparent culture of corruption within the group. He has also brought in a state prosecutor on secondment to draw up a new set of compliance procedures. Cromme, however, is not without his critics. He quit the VW board in 2006 after a blazing row with Ferdinand Piech, the car group's chairman.
Romania's answer to Boots
Dragos Dinu, chief executive of A&D Pharma, Romania's largest wholesale and retail drugs business, has dreams of turning the company into the country's answer to Alliance Boots, the UK group now subject to a £10 billion private equity buy-out bidding war. A&D has recently expanded into neighbouring Moldova and Dinu wants to take the business into Bulgaria, Serbia, UkraineHungary and then possibly even France and Germany. The group, which declared a 34% jump in sales last year to €332 million with a 12% increase in pre-tax earnings to €28 million, is the only listed Romanian company in London, where its Dutch owners floated a third of the equity for €136 million last year.
It is now locked up until October but, says Dinu, it will then analyse how best to fund its planned expansion: raising more equity or debt or lending from local banks. Romania, the EU's 27th and latest member - it joined along with Bulgaria on January 1 - is enjoying extraordinary growth - estimated at 7.7% last year when foreign investors put €9 billion into the country - attracted by its low wages. Probably its most well-known company is Dacia - the Renault subsidiary that makes the EU's cheapest car, the Logan - but Dinu points out that its pharma market is growing at an impressive rate too. EU membership and the LSE listing have brought both advantages and challenges.
The regulatory framework in Romania is rapidly changing, gradually allowing GPs more freedom to prescribe drugs directly - a boon to A&D which operates 206 Sensiblu pharmacies, the country's biggest retail chain, and has a 24% share of the wholesale pharma market. But hundreds of thousands are also leaving the country, mainly for Italy and Spain, and putting a brake on growth. Dinu candidly admits that the group's new investors are putting new pressures on his management of the business. They want him to curb its expansion and to focus on profitable growth. "As an executive manager with an entrepreneurial background, I would prefer to be independent and move forward in the region," he says when asked about pan-European consolidation. "But there are now some investors in this business and not just executive managers." and, eventually,
The price of wind power
Germany's REpower, a wind turbine maker which has teamed up with Peter Brotherhood in the UK, is the centre of an extraordinary bidding war between France's Areva, the nuclear power plant manufacturer, and India's Suzlon Energy. The Indian company, which owns 7.7% of REpower and is already in the turbine business, has raised its offer to €150 a share, valuing the Hamburg-based firm at €1.2 billion and trumping Areva's €140 bid. Areva, which owns 30% of REpower, entered the fray in January with a €105 offer, which analysts said over-valued the target.
Suzlon, another example of the overseas ambitions of Indian companies, has combined with Portuguese builder Martifer - which already owns a quarter of REpower - to outbid the French state-owned group. Areva, which is in the forefront of those arguing for a nuclear renaissance to combat climate change, is losing money on building Europe's first new nuclear plant in Finland. REpower is, of course, a great protagonist of renewable energy and says the global market, worth €30 billion seven years ago, is now worth €60 billion and on course to touch €400 billion by 2020 - when the EU is aiming to cut its CO2 emissions by at least 20% on 1990 levels. It says the German industry's export boom, which has seen volumes rise 12-fold in seven years to €6 billion, will continue and will be worth €15 billion by 2010. But will the wind go out of its sails? The current offer values it at more than 60 times earnings. (business.guardian.co.uk)