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Siemens CEO defends company's involvement in controversial Australian mine

Jill Petzinger
·Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
13 January 2020, Hamburg: Climate activists demonstrate during a Fridays for Future protest action in front of the Siemens office in Hamburg. The sign says "# Stop Adani". In response to the Siemens decision to supply technology for a controversial coal mine project in Australia, the demonstrators had agreed to rallies at various locations in Germany. Despite all criticism, the Munich-based industrial concern wants to stick with an order for a giant coal mine. Photo: Christian Charisius/dpa (Photo by Christian Charisius/picture alliance via Getty Images)
13 January 2020, Hamburg: Climate activists demonstrate during a Fridays for Future protest action in front of the Siemens office in Hamburg. Getty Images

The chief executive of industrial manufacturing giant Siemens described the environmental protests against the company’s involvement in the Adani coal mine project in Australia as “almost grotesque.”

Speaking to journalists ahead of the German conglomerate’s quarterly report meeting in Munich, Joe Kaeser expressed incomprehension that Siemens had become the target of activists’ anger considering its relatively small role in the controversial open-cast mine in Queensland.

Siemens is supplying a signalling system for a railway line that will take coal from the Australian mine to a coastal port. Owned by India's Adani group, the mine will be one of the largest coal mines in the world. It is due to go operational next year, despite protests that Australia, which has been ravaged by wildfires this year, is worsening global warming by extracting ever greater amounts of fossil fuels.

READ MORE: Our survival hinges on achieving Paris climate goals, Merkel tells Davos leaders

"The signalling system we are supplying for safe train traffic is irrelevant to the commissioning of the controversial mine."

He said that in retrospect, Siemens would rather not have accepted the commission, but that activists were incorrect to assume that Siemens pulling out would have halted the whole mine project.

Activists gathered outside Munich’s Olympiahalle ahead of the Siemens meeting on Wednesday morning, where the company delivered lackluster first quarter figures, that missed analysts’ expectations.

MUNICH, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 05: Joe Kaeser, head of German engineering conglomerate Siemens AG, speaks to the media shortly before the companys annual general shareholders meeting on February 5, 2020 in Munich, Germany. The meeting is taking place amidst protests outside. Demonstrators are calling on Siemens to withdraw from its planned participation in the Carmichael coal mine project in Australia. (Photo by Getty Images)
Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens AG, speaks to the media ahead of the company's annual shareholders meeting on February 5, 2020 in Munich, Germany. Photo: Getty Images

It reported a 30% drop in industrial operating profit to €1.43 bn (£1.21 bn, $1.57 bn), well under the expected €1.88 bn for the first quarter of the year. Revenue grew slightly to €20.32 bn.

In the Gas and Power divisions, operating profit fell by 63%, and the Gamesa wind power operations suffered a €165 m loss in part because of winter weather conditions causing project delays.

"The unsatisfactory situation in the entire energy business makes it clear where the primary need for action lies," said Kaeser. Siemens Energy will be listed separately in September, and the company will sell of the majority of it.