A man stands in front of the logo of Swiss engineering group ABB before a news conference in Zurich, Switzerland October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
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The days of the European conglomerate may be numbered, as activist shareholders are pressing diversified groups to spin off secondary businesses and focus on doing one thing well.Philips of the Netherlands, Fiat Chrysler of Italy and Germany's biggest energy groups E.ON and RWE have all floated major divisions this year.ABB disagrees that it power grids business should be spun off.Over the next two years, the combined value of the parent company and its spinoff rose 15-20 percent – with the relative values of both usually rising.Under the deal, Fiat Chrysler shareholders were handed an 80 percent stake in Ferrari in January. While the parent company's shares are down 13 percent year to date, the value of their Ferrari stock is such that investors who held onto both have made a gain of roughly 60 percent.During his career Van Houten has seen Philips eclipsed in value by not one but two former divisions it has spun off: semiconductor equipment-maker ASML, and computer chip-maker NXP. He left Philips to oversee NXP's restructuring after it was sold to private equity investors in 2006, returning to Philips in 2011 .
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