Arab Today, arab today french president meets bidders for industrial jewel alstom
Last Updated : GMT 13:30:06
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

French president meets bidders for industrial jewel Alstom

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today French president meets bidders for industrial jewel Alstom

Paris - AFP

French President Francois Hollande, fighting to protect nationalinterests in takeover target Alstom, met the head of US giant General Electric onMonday before holding talks with rival bidder Siemens.Germany meanwhile sought to boost Siemens' case, saying a tie-up between theFrench and German giants offered a "big opportunity" for Europe's two biggesteconomies.In talks lasting about an hour with GE chief Jeffrey Immelt, Hollande pressed hiscase for jobs and Alstom's decision-making centre to be protected in France."There were legitimate issues (evoked by the government) which GE is working on,"said a GE source."There is still work to be done and that's normal. GE is on the case," the sourceadded.Immelt himself described the talks as an "open, friendly and productive" meeting."It was important to hear in person President Hollande's perspective and to discussour plans," Immelt said. "We understand and value his perspective, and we arecommitted to work together."Hollande is later due to meet with Siemens boss Joe Kaeser and Martin Bouygues,the head of the key shareholder in Alstom, French construction, telecom and mediafirm Bouygues.Meanwhile in Berlin, a spokesman for Germany's economy ministry said a possibletie-up between Alstom and Siemens would offer "a big opportunity and greatpotential in terms of industrial policy for Germany and France."The high-level talks are part of a race by the French Socialist government to protectAlstom's decision-making centre in France, jobs, and strategic energy interests, inwhat Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg has described as a "patriotic" responseto an expected bid by GE.At the end of last week it emerged that GE was in advanced talks to buy Alstom'senergy interests for about 10 billion euros ($14 billion).Energy activities account for about 70 percent of Alstom's business, with the restbeing focused mainly on making railway equipment including the TGV high-speedtrain.GE already has big energy manufacturing activities in France, but Montebourgobjected on Monday to the possibility that Alstom "in three days, can decide to sell75 percent of a national jewel behind the backs of the employees, of thegovernment, of most of the board and of the senior executives."- 'National gem run from Connecticut' -He told RTL radio that a bid from GE raised a simple problem that "the main part ofAlstom, 75 percent of the businesses, 65,000 employees in the world, is going to berun from Connecticut."Alstom is under pressure because its main markets for power generation and railequipment are expected to be weak in the next few years.Its share price has fallen heavily in the last year, pushing Bouygues into loss,although Alstom shares jumped on the bid reports.Economists say that Alstom is too small alongside giants such as GE and Siemensand that it is uncompetitive.They also comment that the French government, since selling its stake in 2006, haslittle real control over what the Alstom board decides, and they tend to the view thatstrategically a deal with GE would have a better strategic fit than one with Siemens.Ten years ago, when Alstom had to be rescued and was shorn of its shipbuildinginterests, France cold-shouldered takeover interest from Siemens which is nowbelieved to be interested in acquiring Alstom energy activities in exchange forhanding the French group its own rail interests to create two giant, specialisedEuropean groups.The French government, in a recent policy switch and amid growing signs thatFrench industry is seriously uncompetitive, is proposing big cuts in planned publicspending to relieve taxes on businesses, but faces strong opposition from its leftwing in a crucial vote this week.The case of Alstom is highly sensitive politically and is also seen as emblematic ofdeep strains in many parts of French industry.

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