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General Electric offers best deal for Alstom: French minister

French Energy Minister Segolene Royal on Wednesday came out in favour of a takeover offer for Alstom's energy division by US group General Electric, defying Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg who favours a tie-up with German group Siemens.

PARIS: French Energy Minister Segolene Royal on Wednesday came out in favour of a takeover offer for Alstom's energy division by US group General Electric, defying Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg who favours a tie-up with German group Siemens.

"General Electric is a very good opportunity for Alstom. It offers the best industrial project," she said in an interview with Paris Match magazine, to be published on Thursday, on the future of the French industrial giant.

"Why not say so? And why do we want systematically to make foreign investment go away?"

That remark appeared to be a reference to a perception in many circles that France is handicapped by an image of trade union tensions, and hostility towards foreign takeovers.

When it emerged that talks for Alstom to sell its energy division to GE were at an advanced stage, the French government acted quickly, and with success, to encourage Siemens to outline a counter proposal.

That is an alternative strongly favoured by Montebourg who is an outspoken defender of national patriotism towards French businesses.

Royal, the former partner of French President Francois Hollande and an unsuccessful candidate for the French presidency, was recently appointed to the senior position of ecology and energy minister in a cabinet reshuffle.

But Royal also tweeted on Wednesday that talks with Siemens were going well, following a meeting between Montebourg and the chief executive of Siemens, Joe Kaeser.

The board of Alstom has said that it will decide by the end of May which of the two offers it prefers, although it has already signalled that it prefers the GE offer of 12.35 billion euros (US$17.0 billion) for its energy activities.

The GE offer is the only firm proposal so far.

However, Siemens has outlined a deal to acquire Alstom's energy interests in exchange for handing Alstom the Siemens train business in a move which would strengthen Alstom's position as a leader in the global rail rolling-stock industry.

Siemens has made an initial estimate that Alstom's energy interests are worth 10.5-11.0 billion euros.

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