Siemens 'confident' on restructuring...

Siemens is "confident" about finding a buyer for the North Tyneside chip plant shut down almost three months ago, according to company president Heinrich von Pierer.

Speaking at the group's annual press conference in Munich earlier today, Von Pierer gave away more details of the company's massive, $2.38 bn (£1.43 bn) restructuring plan announced in November.

Von Pierer said Siemens is still talking to a Chinese firm about the sale of its North Tyneside memory chip plant which shed more than a 1000 jobs when it closed in September. "We have a team of experts looking for a potential customer and are in talks with a Chinese electronics company at the moment," said a Siemens' spokesperson.

The spokesman countered claims that there would be further closures in the company's unprofitable semiconductor business and denied rumours circulating in the German press that 20,000 German-based jobs were about to be axed.

The fate of the company's French "Coubeille-Essones" semiconductor plant is also undecided. Siemens is currently in talks with IBM, which part owns the plant, about the future of the facility. But, according to the Siemens president, its "future looked good".

Talk did veer away from closures, divestments and job cuts as von Pierer announced expansion plans. Siemens is bolstering its R&D efforts through alliances and equity partnerships with innovative start-ups. In addition to seeking out partners in Silicon Valley, the group is focusing heavily in Israel's 'Silicon Wadi' and is involved in over 50 broadband communications, Internet and voice recognition start-ups. Isreali telecoms outfit Floware Systems is one example of a recent alliance.

In January, all venture capital activities will be funnelled through a new channel called Siemens Venture Capital. Previously, each business from Semiconductors to Medical Engineering had separate venture operations. The company will also invest in global venture capital funds in a bid to gain direct access to more high-tech fledglings. A total of DM150 m (£54 m) will flow into the new Venture Capital vehicle.

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