president, GE boss to meet over Alstom future
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[April 28, 2014]
PARIS (Reuters) — President Francois
Hollande and his Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg are set to meet
with General Electric Chief Executive Jeff Immelt on Monday to
discuss the future of French engineering group Alstom, a
presidential official said.
The planned meeting between the French head of state and the boss of
one of the world's 10 largest investor-controlled corporations
follows a weekend of high political and corporate drama.
Immelt arrived in Paris to hammer out a $13 billion deal to buy
Alstom's power turbines business after news of talks between the
French trains-to-turbines group and the U.S. industrial and
financial giant GE late last week.
His arrival coincided with political uproar over the potential loss
of a national champion and the emergence of a rival proposal
involving German group Siemens.
Siemens, like Alstom, makes high speed trains and other railway
rolling stock as well as power station turbines, and is proposing a
swap of assets that would make Alstom a more significant rail
transport player while enhancing its own turbines and power grid
Alstom needs a partner one way or another. Suffering from heavy
debts and a downturn in orders, it was bailed out by the French
government once already in 2004. Sources familiar with the GE-Alstom
talks that came to light late last week say they have been going on
for months and are very advanced.
Montebourg said the Siemens proposal would create "two European and
global champions in the energy and transport domain," and warned
that the government on which Alstom relies for much of its business
would not accept a sale of Alstom's power business — especially the
sensitive nuclear portion — "in haste".
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"GE and Alstom have their calendar, which is that of shareholders,
but the French government has its own, which is that of economic
sovereignty," Montebourg said in a statement, providing the first
official confirmation of GE's offer.
GE has declined to comment throughout. Alstom has also declined to
go into detail about its discussions, but said in a statement on
Sunday it would ask for a suspension of its shares until Wednesday
while it considers its options. Siemens said on Sunday it had
written a letter to Alstom about "strategic opportunities" but also
did not go into detail.
(Reporting by Natalie Huet and Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Andrew
Callus; editing by Diane Craft)
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