Berlin (AFP)

The German industrial group Siemens unveiled on Thursday its intention to organize the "exit of coal" from its energy division, the group's historic activity, the split of which was recorded at an extraordinary general meeting.

"I asked the executive board of Siemens Energy to quickly submit a plan to exit coal," said group boss Joe Kaeser to his shareholders at a general meeting held online.

"This plan will be more responsible than the unilateral demands of certain activists, but it will certainly be more rigorous than what is desired by those who drag their feet," he added, without giving a timetable.

The general shareholders' meeting was convened to adopt the plan to divest the Siemens Energy subsidiary, announced in May 2019, which provides for the subsidiary's initial public offering in September.

The plan was 99.36% adopted by the shareholders, the group said.

Announced with great fanfare a year ago, this split project had the effect of a thunderclap, the field of energy being the historical activity of the company.

It is part of Siemens' strategy to turn its back on heavy industry, where the Munich group has its roots, to bet on the digital wave in the manufacturing industry.

"Now the way is clear for an independent company, dedicated solely to energy," the company said in a statement.

- Blocking minority -

In concrete terms, the group plans to sell 55% of its shares in its subsidiary Siemens Energy, which it will distribute to its shareholders.

Siemens will remain a main shareholder for a time, before making "further significant reductions" in its participation within a period of between "12 and 18 months".

But the company will keep a blocking minority allowing it to influence the decisions made by its former subsidiary.

A power that the conglomerate intends to use, within the framework of the exit of the coal proposed by its leader.

This announcement is part of a context of distrust in Germany vis-à-vis the company, in the viewer for several months of environmentalists for its activities in fossil fuels.

In February, the participation of the German industrial flagship in the construction of a controversial surface coal mine in Australia had caused controversy, mobilizing many environmental activists.

According to the business daily Handelsblatt, which cites sources internal to the company, the plan to exit the coal would however consist only in non-participation in new projects to build power plants.

Siemens' announcement comes a few days after the German parliament passed a bill to get coal out of Germany by 2038, a major consumer of this ore.

© 2020 AFP