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2014-05-11 13:45:00

SIEMENS: U.S. SHALE

SIEMENS: U.S. SHALE

Germany's Siemens AG is making waves across Europe with a management restructuring at home, a possible bid for parts of French rival Alstom SA  and a billion-dollar purchase from Britain's Rolls-Royce Holdings  PLC.

But the industrial conglomerate's focus is the booming U.S. energy market.

Faced with sluggish conditions in Europe, Siemens Chief Executive Joe Kaeser wants to tap the U.S. shale-gas revolution unleased by hydraulic fracturing. Siemens supplies equipment to companies that extract and ship natural gas, generate power from the fuel and use vast amounts of electricity for manufacturing.

"Even though we have already missed a few opportunities, especially in unconventional oil-and-gas exploration, we still have excellent market-entry opportunities, especially in North America," Mr. Kaeser said at a news conference on Wednesday.

He also sees opportunities to compete with General Electric Co. on its home turf as the U.S. rival pushes into Europe. Mr. Kaeser is considering how to trump a $17 billion bid by GE for Alstom's energy business that would put the U.S. company in Siemens's backyard.

Mr. Kaeser launched his U.S. energy assault on Tuesday by naming Royal Dutch Shell PLC strategy head Lisa Davis, an American, as the new chief of the power business for Siemens. Ms. Davis will lead the operation from the U.S., a first for Munich-based Siemens.

The U.S. is now "the place to be" in global energy and would become Siemens's center of gravity, Mr. Kaeser said at a March energy conference in Houston.

Siemens is following its customers as companies involved in U.S. shale-gas extraction prepare to buy more equipment of the sort Siemens builds. Spending by European energy companies on big-ticket equipment is declining, meanwhile.

"The U.S. energy market is booming, and there's a possibility that the country will become a net exporter of energy over the coming years, which should further fire up the boom," said Christoph Niesel, portfolio manager at German investment fund Union Investment, which controls about 1% of Siemens shares on behalf of clients.

A glut of U.S. gas output has pushed down prices. As a result, U.S. sales of gas-powered turbines that generate electricity are expected to pick up in the coming decade as utilities shift from coal to cleaner, less-expensive shale gas.

North America is emerging as one of the world's strongest markets for gas turbines, alongside the Middle East and Turkey, said William Schmalzer, an analyst at Forecast International. European sales won't be as strong, he said.

The research firm anticipates that 12,054 gas turbines with a value of $218 billion will be sold world-wide in the coming decade.

GE held 49% of the global gas-turbine market last year, according to research firm McCoy Power Reports. Siemens held second place, with 23%, followed by Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, with 17%, and Alstom, with 2%.

Small turbines used for fuel extraction and small-scale power generation is a business segment with strong potential. Rolls-Royce's energy unit, which Siemens on Tuesday agreed to buy for more than $1.6 billion, specializes in such units.

U.S. electricity demand recently started rising for the first time since the financial crisis hit six years ago.

Lured by cheap power, U.S. manufacturers are taking work home from overseas and foreign companies are moving plants to the U.S.—particularly from Europe.

Germany's BASF SE, the world's largest chemicals company, said this month that it was considering building a $1.4 billion plant in the U.S. to convert natural gas into propylene, a basic ingredient of many chemicals.

Last year, Austrian steelmaker Voestalpine AG announced plans to invest more than $760 million in a Texas plant to take advantage of inexpensive shale gas. Siemens and U.S.-based Midrex Technology Inc. will build the facility.

Europe's power market, meanwhile, has been hobbled as subsidies for renewable energies, such as wind and solar power, have eroded wholesale power prices.

European utilities have tried to minimize losses by mothballing or decommissioning dozens of turbines with thousands of gigawatts in capacity. Few new fossil-fuel generators are planned in Europe for years to come.

Even one of the world's most-efficient gas turbines is unprofitable, said German utility E.ON SE. The German government had to intervene last year to keep the Siemens-built unit running and guarantee electricity for its service area, near Munich.

Europe's power crisis has hurt profits at utilities and their equipment suppliers. Alstom on Wednesday reported a 28% drop in profit for its fiscal year through March 31, citing weak power-plant orders.

wsj.com

Tags: SIEMENS, U.S., SHALE, GAS

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