The tenth anniversary celebrations of the creation of Fujitsu Siemens Computers (FSC) in October are already being overshadowed by suggestions that one of the original partners wants out.
Reports in the Wall Street Journal last month claimed Siemens was seeking to sell its 50% stake in FSC and get out of the PC business.
Although FSC was initially quick to refute the claims, terming them “baseless”, it appeared to have shifted tone a little later when head of communications Stefan Mueller told MicroScope, “The company will celebrate its tenth birthday and will still exist after autumn 2009 regardless of who the shareholders will be, whether it is Fujitsu, Siemens or Fujitsu and Siemens.”
Whatever happens, if Siemens is serious about exiting FSC, it definitely leaves Fujitsu in a bit of a pickle. FSC in Europe is essentially a Siemens-dominated operation with a distinctly German flavour. If Fujitsu opted to buy the other half of the company, what would the effect be on the culture of the European business?
Whatever might be said about continuity and business as usual, it would still be akin to a takeover by another company, with issues over branding and identity. On the other hand, the prospect of Fujitsu allowing another company to buy the other half of FSC seems pretty remote, if only because most prospective candidates are already competitors and few companies are looking to buy their way into the PC business right now.
The final option is that Fujitsu and Siemens decide to sell the business outright to another buyer, assuming they can find one. Again, this does not seem too likely in the current climate, even if it might be the easiest solution for both parties.
On the plus side, you could argue that if Fujitsu buys the whole shebang, it creates a single company with a single focus and identity, rather than one based on an artificial partnership between two separate corporations in Japan and Germany, removing any potential for conflict or division in the process. Of course, we could end up with more of the same if Fujitsu and Siemens agree to carry on as before.
The other option, and the second least disruptive course, would be for Siemens to withdraw from the partnership gradually over a period of time by slowly decreasing its stake.
All this presupposes that the Wall Street Journal report is accurate, but until October we will not know for sure. Until now, having the backing of two mammoth corporations has given FSC a powerful card to play against rival PC businesses.
Part of the problem for the company, until October at any rate, is that the story has created uncertainty at a time when people in the market are looking for stability wherever they can find it.