Paris opposes GE Alstom bid

The French government said it will not support GE’s bid for Alstom, but is open to discussions with the US group over a revised deal.

A widely-reported letter from French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg to GE CEO Jeff Immelt said Paris would not back the $17bn offer tabled for Alstom’s energy interests “as it stands”.

Montebourg said he opposes an outcome that sees Alstom’s energy interests – including its renewables operations – “disappear” via a straightforward acquisition. Instead he suggests discussing a “balanced partnership”, citing the example of GE’s joint venture with Safran in aero engines.

The minister also expressed fears that the transport-focused rump of Alstom that would be left after a GE swoop for the energy business would be too weak to compete effectively, suggesting GE could throw its own rail activities into the mix.

French officials also want to see cast-iron guarantees over jobs. The French state does not own Alstom but has the power to block deals that involve strategic national assets.

GE has previously been at pains to stress its eagerness to listen to the French government and said it is open to ongoing negotiations.

Alstom’s board has already said it favours GE’s bid, but will give an independent committee a month to review the offer before making a final judgement.

The delay also leaves the door ajar for German industrial giant Siemens to carry out due diligence before a possible counter-offer for Alstom.

Elsewhere it was reported that Alstom CEO Patrick Kron has reassured his counterpart at Siemens that the German group will be given “rigorously transparent” access to the information needed to carry out an assessment.