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Infineon boss seeks fuller break from Siemens

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Infineon has demanded that its former parent Siemens cut its majority stake in the chip maker and allow it to go its own way.

The call came from Infineon CEO Ulrich Schumacher, in an Financial Times interview and sounds suspicously like an attempt to distance the company from its past.

Said Schumacher: "We want to go running... Siemens sometimes acts as if they still own us." He also noted conflicts in management style and strategy between the German industrial giant and the chip maker it spun off then floated last year.

But why this attempt to put clear blue water between parent and offspring? Look no further than the Rambus case, which Infineon resoundingly won t'other week. Rambus has said it will appeal, and we wonder if this is the real motive behind Schumacher's comments.

Certainly the issues Rambus' lawyers raised over Infineon's conduct with the memory developer - specifically alleged breaches of non-disclosure agreements - all look place when Infineon was merely Siemens' chip division.

Schumacher clearly wants everyone to realise that Infineon and Siemens' semiconductor operation circa 1990 are not the same beast at all - something commentators and - dare we say it - the appeal court should bear in mind in due course. Hence the reference to management style and practice.

"Rambus lawyers tried to portray us as a big, bad German corporation, stealing the technology of a plucky US startup," Schumacher told the FT. "This could have easily swayed the judge and jury. We were glad that they saw through this to the facts of the case."

Schumacher's solution: Siemens should cut its stake in Infineon from its current 56 per cent to just 10-15 per cent. Siemens always planned to cut its stake, but has yet to do so largely, it seems, because of fall in Infineon's share price, knocked down by the chip market slump.

Siemens recently seemed to blame its offspring for a revision of its earnings predictions, so the German giant may well be keen to distance itself from Infineon too. ®

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