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One step forward, one step back. A 6 per cent tumble in shares of Siemens AG on Thursday, following the German behemoth's latest profits warning, takes then right back to where they started the year – and pretty much to where they were five years ago. This is the second time that Siemens has lowered guidance in the past three months. In May it cautioned that earnings from continuing operations for the year ending in September would be at the lower end of expectations, at about €4.5-billion ($6.14-billion). Now it is suggesting that it will also miss its longer-term target of a 12 per cent profit margin from its core operating sectors in 2013/14 (The figure was 9.5 per cent last year).

Investors will not get much detail until next Thursday, when Siemens third-quarter results are released. Thursday's three-sentence announcement suggested that market conditions were largely to blame, rather than a shortfall in the German company's big restructuring programme, which is aiming to find €6-billion-worth of cost cuts and productivity gains by 2014.

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Still, with that overhaul heavily backloaded – as of March, Siemens had secured only €900-million in savings – investors could be forgiven for feeling nervous. It is true that economic conditions have not made life plain-sailing for some of Siemens' peers recently. On Thursday ABB, for example, talked of "challenging global markets" and large order delays. Even so, its quarterly revenues and earnings were up. Similarly, Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV – which, like Siemens, has a large healthcare equipment division – saw flat second-quarter sales in this unit. But again, earnings improved and there was strong order growth. Siemens executives, in short, have some explaining to do.

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