Siemens' health unit set for modest stock market debut

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Frankfurt am Main (AFP)

Industrial giant Siemens' Healthineers unit is set to make its debut on the Frankfurt stock exchange Friday after the group raised 4.2 billion euros in an initial public offering that came in at the lower end of expectations.

Healthineers, one of Siemens' largest and most valuable divisions, supplies hospitals around the world with everything from X-ray and MRI machines to lab diagnostics gear and robotic arms used in the operating theatre.

It's in robust health, achieving an operating profit margin of around 18 percent last year and revenues of 13.8 billion euros ($17 billion), second only to Siemens' flagship but troubled power and gas unit.

In a statement late Thursday, Siemens said it had fixed the price for the sale of its 15-percent stake in Healthineers -- equivalent to 150 million shares -- at 28 euros per share, valuing the company at some 28 billion euros.

It had earlier set a price range of 26 to 31 euros.

The flotation comes as the sprawling Siemens conglomerate seeks to become more nimble in response to changing markets and stronger competition.

Last year, it announced a tie-up of its train construction business with French rival Alstom to create a European rail giant, merged its wind energy unit with Spain's Gamesa and unveiled plans to slash some 7,000 energy jobs due to falling global demand for its power plant turbines.

- 'Fleet of ships' -

Healthineers' initial public offering (IPO) was tipped to be the largest on Frankfurt's blue-chip Dax index in over two decades when it was first announced by Siemens late last year, with analysts estimating the offering would generate some nine billion euros.

But those expectations were dashed when Siemens this month said it would offer the shares at a lower-than-expected price range of between 26 and 31 euros per share, partly because of a spike in market volatility in recent weeks that has sapped investor demand.

The last Frankfurt IPO of a similar size was 2016's listing of RWE's renewables spin-off Innogy, which raised around 4.6 billion euros.

Healthineers' chief executive Bernd Montag said its flotation would allow the unit to focus on being "a pure medical technology company", giving it "more flexibility" and the ability to raise its own capital for any future takeovers.

Although Healthineers is a world leader in medical imaging products in terms of annual revenues, it lags competitors such as General Electric, Roche and Philips in the areas of diagnostics -- which includes machines to analyse blood and urine tests -- and advanced therapies, which focus on enabling minimally invasive medical procedures.

As for Siemens, observers say the parent company may use the IPO proceeds to support some of its less impressively performing offspring, notably the giant gas and power unit currently undergoing a painful restructuring.

The changes sweeping Siemens come as conglomerates around the world are rethinking their strategies, offloading units and reshaping unwieldy businesses in a bid to keep pace with fast-changing industry landscapes.

Siemens' CEO Joe Kaeser told German media last year his aim was to make the group more agile.

"Today we are a single tanker. We must become a coordinated and efficient fleet of ships."