Canadian Manufacturing

French government blocking GE’s Alstom bid—at least for now

French government said it was "ready to take part financially" in a deal

PARIS—France’s national interest is at stake in a potential sale of engineering giant Alstom, the economy minister said, warning the company against making a hasty deal with General Electric Co.

Arnaud Montebourg said the government wants time to examine a separate offer from German rival Siemens aimed at creating two “European champions” in transport and power engineering.

Montebourg said that “given the strategic stakes for French industry and economy, the government won’t accept any precipitous decision made without taking account of alternative choices in the national interest.”

The government “wants to have the time to make a serious examination of the proposals,” Montebourg said.

Last week, unsourced rumours in the French media suggested that GE and Alstom were preparing to announce a deal.

Siemens has also said it was prepared to discuss a deal with its French rival Alstom.

Siemens sent the Alstom board a letter “to signal its willingness to discuss future strategic opportunities,” but declined to elaborate.

President Francois Hollande is meeting three CEOs in an all-out effort to orchestrate a deal for Alstom and keep the engineering company firmly rooted at home. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are sensitive.

Montebourg said the government is “ready to examine” both GE and Siemen’s proposals “with the aim of preserving the interests of France’s industrial base” and said the government was “ready to take part financially” in a deal.

The French government is cool to the idea of an Alstom buyout because the company pioneered TGV high-speed trains, later exporting them around the world, and builds nuclear turbines.

GE has long roots in France. Its French division posted 7.8 billion euros in revenue in 2011, the last year for which figures were available on the group’s website. GE employees 11,000 people in France, with three main industrial centres in Belfort, Buc and Creusot. GE is also part of a 40-year-old joint venture with French defence contractor Snecma, called CFM International, which makes jet engines for airlines and militaries around the world.

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