GE boss to meet French minister as Alstom deal progresses

Sat Apr 26, 2014 2:53pm EDT
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By Elizabeth Pineau and Benjamin Mallet

PARIS (Reuters) - General Electric (GE.N: Quote) boss Jeff Immelt is due in Paris on Sunday and is expected to meet France's economy minister as he closes in on a deal to buy the global power arm of struggling French engineer Alstom, sources close to the matter said.

Several sources close to talks between the companies said on Friday a transaction could be announced in days. Some put a $13 billion valuation on Alstom's (ALSO.PA: Quote) turbines and power grid equipment business.

Sources close to the government who flagged the likely meeting between economy minister Arnaud Montebourg and Immelt said Prime Minister Manuel Valls might also meet the chief executive, who heads one of the 10 largest investor-controlled companies in the world, should the more senior politician return from a visit to Rome in time.

French media said a decisive Alstom board meeting, the second since Friday, would also take place on Sunday.

Socialist Montebourg has been a strong exponent of France's traditionally cautious approach to foreign takeovers of companies in flagship industries.

Last week he said he would protect the national interest and study "other solutions and scenarios" for Alstom, also the maker of TGV high-speed trains and one of France's top private-sector employers, which is struggling with heavy debt and weak demand.

Le Figaro newspaper reported that the French government had approached Alstom's long-time German rival, Siemens (SIEGn.DE: Quote), about a possible alternative offer. Siemens declined to comment. The French government had no immediate comment

One source close to the talks said the government had been looking for alternatives for months without success "so I don't see what they will find now".   Continued...

Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric appears at a news conference announcing the Head Health Initiative along with the National Football League (NFL), in New York March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar