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French minister puts off GE boss meet as Siemens hints at Alstom role

French Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg has put off a meeting with General Electric (GE) boss Jeffrey Ilmert as he looks into a possible offer by Siemens to buy into French engineering giant Alstom.

Arnaud Montebourg, le ministre du Redressement productif, le 29 août dernier.
Arnaud Montebourg, le ministre du Redressement productif, le 29 août dernier. Reuters/Benoit Tessier

“The government wants to have the time needed for a serious examination of the proposals,” an economy ministry statement said on Sunday.

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Montebourg leapt into action this week when it was reported that US-based GE was pitching to buy some or all of Alstom, which he considers a “symbol of our industrial power and French ingenuity”.

GE is reported to be interested in buying Alstom’s energy interests, about 70 per cent of its activity, and Montebourg was expected to meet Ilmert.

But his office announced on Sunday that he had postponed the meeting without naming anotehr date.

Siemens on Sunday informed Alstom that it was open to “exchanges on the strategic questions raise by future cooperation”, leaving open the possibility that it could buy into the group as Chinese carmaker Dongfeng has done to PSA Peugeot Citroën.

Even though the French state has not been a shareholder in Alstom since 2006, Montebourg has indicated that he would prefer that to an outright takeover of most of the company by the US-based firm.

The government wants guarantees on “jobs, location of activities and energy independence”, President François Hollande’s office said Sunday.

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