By Ruth Bender
BERLIN -- German industrial engineering company Siemens AG on Thursday said Chief Executive Joe Kaeser would be replaced by current Deputy CEO Roland Busch by early next year at the latest, cementing the company's shift from a conglomerate into a business more focused on digital transformation.
Mr. Busch, a technician who was put on fast track to succeed Mr. Kaeser last fall, is to take over as CEO at the latest after the group's next ordinary shareholders meeting in February 2021, Siemens said in a statement after the company's supervisory board made the decision on Thursday.
The transition will be gradual, with Mr. Busch taking on more responsibilities until the official succession. Mr. Kaeser, meanwhile, will be proposed to become chairman of a new company -- Siemens Energy -- which Siemens is set to spin off later this year, the company said.
Mr. Kaeser's departure marks a milestone for Siemens and brings certainty after months of speculation about whether the manager might extend his term.
The outgoing CEO sought to reinvent the company from an industrial conglomerate to a much smaller business that, in the future, will become increasingly focused on connecting factories and urban infrastructure to the internet.
Mr. Kaeser recently celebrated his 40th anniversary at Siemens. He is considered one of the most outspoken of German CEOs and has at times provoked controversy with his tweets on such issues as climate change or politics.
With the spin-off of Siemens Energy -- which will combine the group's struggling power and gas unit and its renewable energy business -- Siemens is entering a new era. Under Mr. Kaeser, Siemens has spun off its medical technology business, Siemens Healthineers, and wind turbine maker Siemens Gamesa.
Mr. Busch was seen as a favorite to succeed Mr. Kaeser since last September, when he was promoted to the role of deputy CEO, giving him the chance to prove himself as a contender to succeed Mr. Kaeser, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Busch brings strong technical credentials to the position, having studied physics and served previously as chief technology officer.
Chairman Jim Hagemann Snabe said Mr. Busch, 55 years old, had a "deep understanding of all the technologies that have made Siemens successful in the past and will be crucial for its future."
Starting immediately, Mr. Busch will be charged with planning and implementing Siemens's budget for its 2021 fiscal year and take on responsibility for integrating and managing the new Siemens from April.
In a more surprising move, Siemens said Christian Bruch, a top executive at Linde PLC, was to become CEO of Siemens Energy from May. Michael Sen and Klaus Patzak, Siemens Energy's designated CEO and CFO, respectively, are leaving the company by mutual agreement. Siemens aims for a public listing of Siemens Energy in September.
Write to Ruth Bender at Ruth.Bender@wsj.com