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.
"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.
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.