Siemens’s Venture With Gores Targets Small-Enterprise Sales

Siemens AG’s Unify GmbH & Co. KG communications joint venture with Gores Group LLC plans to boost sales to small and medium-sized enterprises as it rolls out a new product to regain market share from Cisco Systems Inc.

The company formerly known as Siemens Enterprise Communications hired Jon Pritchard last month to increase sales by third parties to smaller customers, Unify Chief Executive Officer Dean Douglas said in an interview in Hanover, Germany.

“Unify needs to develop an alternate, independent sales channel,” said Douglas, who joined Unify in January from enterprise technology company Westcon Group Inc., replacing Hamid Akhavan, who moved to the supervisory board. “The challenge we have is mid-size customers and smaller customers -- we just can’t afford to go to those customers with a direct sales force.”

Unify, which in the past focused on network technologies and equipment for corporate clients, presented a new software offering in October to make it easier for workers to collaborate by combining phone and electronic communications. The company is 49 percent owned by Siemens and 51 percent by Los Angeles-based investor Gores.

The new product positions Unify more closely against Microsoft Corp., whose Lync platform pulls together calls, meetings and documents from its Skype, Office, Outlook and other software. The business also competes in the so-called unified communications market with Cisco Systems Inc.

Attracting Investors

Pritchard joined Unify’s board last month with responsibility for sales channels, having worked with Douglas at Westcon, where he was responsible for the Comstor sales unit. Comstor is a distributor of Cisco products.

Siemens shares fell 2.3 percent to 90.82 euros at 3:09 p.m. in Frankfurt.

The prospect of an initial share offering or company sale is not yet a priority, Douglas said. His predecessor Akhavan said in October that the new product -- dubbed Project Ansible - - is essential to make Unify attractive to new investors. The company reported sales of 2.1 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in 2012, the last year for which figures are available.

“When I started at Westcon it was about $2.5 billion revenue,” Douglas said this week. “We were able to transform that, so we’re aiming to do the same thing here.”

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