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German industrial giant Siemens said Sunday it wanted to discuss strategic opportunities with France’s Alstom, raising the prospect of a takeover tussle with General Electric for the beleaguered firm, as the government warned the company against a hasty deal with GE.
The offer came on the heels of reports that the US giant wants to buy the French engineering group, power producer and maker of high-speed TGV trains.
According to Le Figaro newspaper, Siemens is offering Alstom half of its train-making business plus cash in exchange for the French company’s turbines division. But Alstom chief Patrick Kron is said to be strongly hostile to any tie-up with Siemens.
Alstom is a politically-sensitive symbol and seen as one of the jewels of French industry.
GE chief Jeff Immelt was expected in Paris on Sunday but a meeting with France’s economy minister Arnaud Montebourg was deferred by Montebourg’s office, which said the minister needed more time to examine the offers following the Siemens announcement.
“Given the strategic stakes for French industry and economy, the government won’t accept any precipitous decision made without taking account of alternative choices in the national interest,” the statement said.
Shares in Alstom were halted on Friday after its stock closed nearly 11% higher Thursday at 27 euros on takeover talks.
When Alstom was on the brink of collapse in 2003-2004, the French government had opposed a takeover by Siemens, and ended up bailing out the company.