Siemens CEO: serious about Alstom

Siemens chief executive Joe Kaeser today stressed his company’s interest in French rival Alstom is "serious“ and not just displayed under pressure from the governments in Paris and Berlin in order to thwart a rival bid by GE.

He also said Siemens will decide calmly whether to formulate a bid for Alstom or not, and denied personal difficulties between Alstom CEO Patrick Kron and himself.

“You can be sure that whatever we do, we give it a serious thought,” Kaeser said at a press conference in Berlin.

“We’re not giving control away; we want to be the ones to decide and not being pushed by someone else.”

When news about GE’s offer leaked, Siemens had to show that it was able to act, also as once the assets are gone, it would be too late, he added.

Kaeser stressed that Alstom with an installed base of 3,500 gas and steam turbines across the globe has a “meaningful business in services,” next to important regional footprints in China, Indonesia and India.

The CEO also justified the demand by Siemens’ board to get one month to look into Alstom’s data room and carry out a due diligence on the company before actually deciding whether really to make an offer for its energy assets.

“We wanted at least a fraction of the time that the others had so that we can assess the asset and know what is really involved,” Kaeser said.

But he stressed: “We’re going about it calmly, and we will decide whether or not to submit a bid. And then they will decide.”

Kaeser played down supposed animosities between Alstom CEO Patrick Kron and himself. German media had reported that Kron, whose family came to France in 1945 after escaping the Holocaust in Poland, dislikes Germany and also Siemens. Kron about ten years ago had already fought off an attempt by Siemens to take over great parts of Alstom.

“It was never abnormal between Mr Kron and myself,” Kaeser said, adding that the fact that the two have not talked personally since a visit in February by the Siemens CEO to Paris was blown out of proportion by the media.

“Everything is perfectly normal. ... Basically, it’s a company that decided to divest part of its assets. Someone had submitted a bid, and there’s someone who’s considering whether to submit a bid. No more, no less. And this is it,” Kaeser said.

Kaeser will travel to Paris on May 21 for a Siemens road show and said he expects to get some feed-back on the approach to Alstom there.