GE trumpets 40-year jet engine venture to bolster Alstom bid

Tue Apr 29, 2014 5:11am EDT
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By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) - As General Electric (GE.N: Quote) tries to convince French leaders to back its offer to rescue engineering firm Alstom (ALSO.PA: Quote), it hopes that three letters will convince them of its good will: CFM.

The initials mask a successful U.S.-French venture that will soon mark 40 years making jet engines.

Co-owned by GE and Snecma, a unit of French aerospace group Safran (SAF.PA: Quote), CFM has grown from a risky attempt to break into new civil markets into an aviation powerhouse with 26,000 units sold and a CFM-powered jet taking off every two seconds.

General Electric Chief Executive Jeff Immelt brought up the engine supplier during a meeting with French President Francois Hollande to press GE's $13 billion offer on Monday, a person with knowledge of the discussions said.

Immelt "stressed that CFM is an excellent example of co-operation", the person said, asking not to be identified.

By doing so, he not only boasted of GE's French credentials in the face of a rival offer from Germany's Siemens (SIEGn.DE: Quote).

He also implicitly addressed French concerns over "economic sovereignty" by comparing his bid to a previous episode in which the United States agreed to share its own sensitive technology.

Although now established in the aircraft industry, the creation of CFM in 1974 was so sensitive that it only went ahead after intervention by U.S. President Richard Nixon and French counterpart Georges Pompidou - one of the few points of agreement at an inconclusive Reykjavik summit a year earlier.   Continued...

The logo of U.S. conglomerate General Electric is pictured at the company's site in Belfort, April 27, 2014. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler