GE woos French with jobs talk

GE piled the pressure on Siemens this morning by stressing its commitment to French jobs and investment as it confirmed its $17bn offer for the energy interests of Alstom.

GE said France would host centres of excellence for its offshore wind and grid business if it is successful in acquiring the Alstom operations.

It also said it anticipates “net growth in jobs in acquired businesses in France, with the employee mix moving toward high-value manufacturing and engineering jobs”.

Alstom’s board said this morning it saw the “strategic and industrial merits” of GE’s offer, but the reference to jobs and investment will also be intended to appeal to the French government.

Some ministers have expressed anxiety about GE falling into US hands without any competition, and lobbied hard for a counter-offer from Germany’s Siemens to at least be given a chance to be heard.

Alstom today left the door ajar for Siemens, and promised that the French state’s interests would be taken into account when it carries out a review of the GE bid.

But Siemens would have to come up with an equally convincing argument over jobs and investment to carry the day.

Recharge Insight director Robert Clover said: “A combination of Alstom and GE looks more complimentary that Alstom plus Siemens, and would preserve more jobs long-term.”

GE did not mention Siemens but CEO Jeff Immelt – who met French President Francois Hollande this week – said: “GE has an excellent track record of creating shareholder value from investments in Europe.

“In France, this includes our longstanding CFM aircraft engine joint venture with Snecma (Safran); our acquisition of Thomson-CGR, a healthcare centre of excellence for GE; and our 1999 acquisition of Alstom’s gas turbine business in Belfort, which today is GE’s technology centre of excellence for 50 Hz gas turbines.

“Across Europe, we have built strong global competitors from European champions in oil & gas, aviation and healthcare,” Immelt said.

Immelt will discuss the proposed acquisition in a conference call with investors later today.