eeNews Europe: Infineon is the undisputed market leader in power semiconductors, devices that find their way in transport, automotive, industrial equipment and energy infrastructures. You list both Alstom and Siemens as important customers due to their activities in power generation and rail transport infrastructures. So what impact could have the acquisition of Alstom’s Energy activities by General Electric and would Infineon rejoice if Siemens came at the top of the negotiations?
Dr Reinhard Ploss: We are a major supplier to all players in these fields, and actually we supply more to Siemens than to Alstom. So we can cope with either scenario, it would not make a big difference to the whole picture for us. Of course, from a European perspective, I understand that France would want to favour Siemens, focusing on maintaining industrial strength in Europe.
EETE: French’s Economy and Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg has just signed a decree that allows government to block foreign investment at will in key areas including energy, equipment, plants and transportation that are critical for national security and health.
Do you think there should be a European strategy to handle such large-scale and fairly strategic business acquisitions that have vast repercussions on European jobs?
Dr Ploss: I think it is always dangerous to bring in politics into business decisions as it tends to distort the market. If you are too protective and you shield your businesses from competition, then when competition eventually comes, your business dies quicker.
I think that Europe could certainly do more for its industry, not by protecting selected businesses, but with directed public procurement strategies within the European market to grow and strengthen its key industries. Energy is a key challenge for Europe and the EU should strengthen its foothold with new production capabilities.
That’s why I like Neelie Kroes’ "Airbus of chips" initiative. Whether Europe could reach 20% of global chip manufacture by 2020 is debatable, but far beyond chip production, she has the vision of strengthening the microelectronics industry as a key enabler for many other industries. If you don’t support key enabling technologies, how do you support all the other activities that rely heavily on electronics?