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French government plans 'patriotic' block to GE Alstom bid

Alstom's logo
Alstom's logo Reuters/Vincent Kessler

The French government is geared up to take “patriotic” action to protect engineering giant Alstom from takeover by the US’s General Electric. GE may only be interested in Alstom’s energy interests, reports say.

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Describing Alstom as “the symbol of our industrial power and French ingenuity", French Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg told Le Monde newspaper that the government “is showing patriotic concern and vigilance" to try to keep the company French.

The company’s main activities are building power stations and the French TGV high-speed train, for which it has found buyers around the world.

After the Bloomberg wire service reported that GE wanted to buy Alstom for more than nine billion euros, Alstom shares shot up by nearl 11 per cent to 27 euros, leading the French stockmarket regulator suspend trading in them on Friday.

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But Montebourg, who is a champion of keeping production “made in France”, expressed concern about preserving France’s industrial base and keeping jobs.

Sources told Le Monde that Alstom boss Patrick Kron was summoned back to Paris from a foreign trip on Thursday and driven in a government vehicle with a police escort with sirens blazing to meet the minister and Emmanuel Macron, the second-in-command at the Elysée presidential palace.

An agreement to keep Alstom (mostly) French could be hacked this weekend, the paper reports, with options being considered including inviting companies such as Areva, Schneider or Siemens to buy into it, as Chinese carmaker Dongfeng did for PSA Peugeot Citroën.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls is to meet GE chiefs soon, Montebourg said.

Alstom said it had not been informed of a bid and would comment when it issues annual results on 7 May.

The group, which is now worth less than 10 billion euros and has suffered a fall in share price, was saved by the French state in 2004.

It had sales in its last financial year of 20.3 billion euros and employs 93,000 people of whom 18,000 work in France.

General Electric had sales of 146 billion dollars (105 billion euros) last year, and
employs 305,000 people.
 

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