GE grants Alstom more time

GE on Thursday said it will give Alstom several more weeks to consider its takeover bid for the French industrial giant's energy assets, shortly after GE chief executive Jeff Immelt expressed confidence the deal will go through.

GE will give Alstom's board until 23 June to weigh up its proposal against a possible counter-bid from Siemens or any other interested parties, GE says.

The move comes "at the request of the French government", according to GE.

"The industrial project we have presented is good for Alstom, for France and for GE, and our discussions have continued to be constructive. We view this extension positively," the company says.

Earlier, Immelt told an industry conference in the US that GE is “experienced” in making such deals happen and knows how to work constructively with the French authorities, which have thus far been cold to GE's offer, which includes protecting and creating jobs in France.

"We wouldn't have started if we didn't think we could finish," Immelt said.

French politicians from President Francois Hollande down have questioned the US group’s acquisition bid in its current form, despite the GE offer enjoying the support of Alstom’s board.

The Paris government has even given itself extra powers to thwart foreign takeovers since the US offer emerged.

After lodging its $17bn bid at the end of April, Immelt indicated that GE would be willing to examine options for Alstom’s wind power interests to remain in French hands.

Compatriot Areva has since emerged as a possible destination for Alstom’s offshore wind operation, as a possible sweetener for a deal with either GE or Siemens.

A formal bid from the latter has yet to materialise, although France’s industry minister revealed on Tuesday that the German group has been in contact with Alstom over the issue.