Siemens reports steady profits as it gears up for turbulent AGM

Siemens reported steady profits despite a drop in orders on the day of its annual shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday, as it geared up for a storm of protests over the Munich-based conglomerate’s environmental impact.

Hit by a downturn in the automotive and manufacturing sectors, Siemens posted a 2-per-cent drop in orders to 24.8 billion euros (27.4 billion dollars) during the company’s first quarter, ending December 31.

Revenue rose by 1 per cent to 20.3 billion euros, while net income was slightly above the previous year’s level at almost 1.1 billion euros.

The company was also held back by losses at wind turbine manufacturer Siemens Gamesa, which was in the red in the first quarter due to delays on several projects.

But despite falling orders, the company has a backlog to work through of 149 billion euros, which it said was a new high.

The new fiscal year had got off to a “rather subdued” start, Siemens chief executive Joe Kaeser said as shareholders prepared to gather in Munich, southern Germany.

This is likely to be his final annual shareholders’ meeting as head of the company, with his contract as board chairman set to expire at the end of the year. His deputy, Roland Busch, is seen as the likely successor.

On Wednesday, Kaeser is expected to address criticism from climate activists as well as some shareholders.

Climate activists angered by Siemens’ involvement in a controversial mining project in Australia have vowed to protest the meeting.

“We will be on site with several hundred people, perhaps even thousands, throughout the day,” said Lara Eckstein from the Campact protest group on Tuesday.

The protest alliance also includes the German branches of the Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion climate movements.

The protesters are demanding that Siemens end its contract with Indian conglomerate Adani, which is building one of the world’s largest open-cast mine in the Australian state of Queensland.

Siemens is to build the site’s rail-signalling infrastructure under a deal worth 18 million euros (19.9 million dollars).

Kaeser had decided to go ahead with the project in January, despite reassessing the contract in light of major protests in Germany and Australia.

On Wednesday, he said it was “grotesque” that the project in Australia had made Siemens a target of environmental protests and called the German industrial giant’s participation in the project “irrelevant.”

Activists from the environmental organization Greenpeace occupied the roof of the Siemens headquarters in Munich on Tuesday. They unfurled a banner reading “Bush fires begin here.” Australia has recently been devastated by bush fires.

Environmental protests aren’t the company’s only problem at the moment: Sluggish results for its wind business could hinder Siemens’ bid to launch a new energy company, with plans for Siemens Energy to go public later in the year.

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