chapter  5
25 Pages

Mutual Attraction

Siemens Activities in Italy 1855–1968
ByLuciano Segreto

Siemens investments in Italy have been one of the long-term strategic issues of the German company. An industrialising economy until the First World War, Italy needed to import some of the most advanced technology, such as all key electromechanical machinery. Foreign suppliers, mainly [German, Swiss and American], had an important outlet in this market until 1914. However, Siemens developed a commercial strategy and never created a factory, as it had done in Great Britain or in Russia before the First World War. After the war, and the successful import substitution strategy of the Italian electromechanical firms, Siemens S.A. changed its strategy. It focussed on the telephone sector, reaching a semi-monopolistic position in the Italian market. In the meantime, it enlarged its activities to include lamp production, electro-medical devices and creating or buying manufacturing companies in Italy. At the end of the Second World War, all its assets passed under Italian government control. In 1947, STET, the State holding of telecommunications, took over all Siemens assets. In the 1950s, all the non-telephone activities were concentrated in a new company, Siemens Elettra, a process conducted in agreement with the German headquarters of the company. STET sold all Siemens activities to the German firm in the early 1960. Sit-Siemens, the newly named Italian branch of Siemens, was Germanised in that decade, introducing the two-tier system of corporate governance, adopted in Germany since the end of the 19th century, while the management of the firm was largely Italianised.