Siemens is no longer in stormy seas. That at least is the message from the art in its chief executive’s office.
A gloomy picture of a stormy sea long hung in the German group’s headquarters. In his first interview as head of Siemens two years ago, Peter Löscher told me he wanted to banish the picture and replace it with work from his private collection. Subsequent visits to his office showed Europe’s largest engineering group still to be in the midst of rough weather (at least to lazy journalists in need of a metaphor).
The number of German companies embroiled in serious bribery allegations continues to grow: we have had Volkswagen, then Siemens, MAN and now Daimler.
But the preponderance of heavyweight industrial names leads to one to wonder about why so many German companies have recently become caught up in corruption scandals. Put simply: are German businesses more corrupt than others?
An alliance of two losers?
That is too harsh a pronouncement on the news that Daimler and Renault are talking about a possible cross-shareholding. Nevertheless it does seem striking that the two European carmakers that probably performed worst in the recent crisis are talking about propping each other up.
Quotas are always controversial. So Deutsche Telekom’s announcement on Monday that it is introducing a target to have 30 per cent of its top and middle management drawn from women by 2015 is likely to provoke a big debate.
But, quota or not, the German telecom group’s move makes far more sense than competing quotas in countries such as Norway.
That is because it focuses on executives, not non-executives. To recap, Norway has led the way with imposing a 40 per cent quota of female non-executive directors on its biggest companies.
EADS was meant to be the model European company. That long ago ceased to be the case, unless the model it was highlighting was a feeble, if not to say broken, one.
But the company still holds up a mirror to the continent and the flurry of news in recent days makes uncomfortable reading for European business.
Every car show needs a narrative and this year’s industry jamboree in Geneva looks like the time when the electric car came of age.
Some manufacturers such as Renault are still showing concept electric cars but the main message from chief executives in Geneva is that full-electric cars are no longer a pipe dream, but are coming to the market.
Geneva this spring seems positively balmy compared with last year. And that is the impression that its private banks are trying to get over too.
Under pressure over its sacred bank secrecy, Swiss private banks – mostly based here around Lac Léman – initially looked like headless chickens. It is economic war from the US, one said. For another, the Germans were threatening the country again. Yet more started to ban employees from travelling even to France – just a few kilometres away. Paranoia reigned.
Toyota’s woes are seen as a chance for other Asian carmakers such as Honda and Hyundai and maybe even the US Big Three.
But the biggest beneficiary in the long run might be European: Volkswagen.