French engineering company Alstom has said it will decide by the end of May whether to accept an offer from GE for its energy business. German competitor Siemens will also have the chance to make a concrete offer.
Alstom said Wednesday it will decide by the end of May whether to accept a 12.35 billion euro ($17 billion) offer from US group General Electric for its energy division.
Siemens had officially thrown its hat in the ring to acquire Alstom's energy division on Tuesday. The German engineering giant said it conditioned its offer on being given access to Alstom's files and being allowed to interview management for four weeks as part of its "due diligence."
Should Alstom decide to accept a Siemens offer it would be have to pay GE 1.5 percent of the purchase price.
The French government, specifically Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg, had pushed for Siemens' to take over Alstom's power generation and distribution business, which provides nearly 70 percent of the French group's revenues. Montebourg had reacted negatively to the possibility Alstom could fall into American hands after news emerged it was in advanced talks with GE.
The French minister slammed Alstom boss Patrick Kron for not informing Paris about the takeover talks, accusing the CEO of deliberately keeping him in the dark. Striking an agreement with Siemens would ensure Alstom remains in European control.
President Francois Hollande met with the heads of GE and Siemens on Monday in the French capital. France is not a stakeholder in Alstom, but the state believes it should have a say in the firm's future as one of its biggest customers for high-speed TGV trains and turbines. Alstom also received a government bailout in 2004.
In a speech to parliament Tuesday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Alstom was "of national strategic importance," stressing the government would closely monitor the takeover bidding process.
Economists say Alstom is too small to compete on the market with giants like GE and Siemens.
dr,hc/jm (dpa, AFP, Reuters)