French president, GE chief to discuss Alstom’s future

French President Francois Hollande will soon hold a meeting with General Electric (GE) Chief Executive Jeff Immelt to discuss the future of beleaguered engineering group Alstom.

A source form France's presidential office revealed that Mr. Hollande and his Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg will discuss the Alstom issue with Mr. Immelt during a planned meeting on Monday.

Mr. Immelt is reportedly in Paris to hit a $13 billion acquisition deal for Alstom's power turbines business. His visit coincided with political uproar over Alstom's potential heavy losses and the emergence of a rival bid by German group Siemens-led consortium.

Mr. Montebourg recently said rival proposal by Siemens would create two European champions in the domain of energy and transportation and ccautioned that the government would not accept a sale of Alstom's power business, particularly its highly-sensitive nuclear portion, in haste.

The Minister said in a statement, "GE and Alstom have their calendar, which is that of shareholders, but the French government has its own, which is that of economic sovereignty."

Sources with direct knowledge of the GE-Alstom discussions said that the two sides had been pursuing in talks for the last many months and the talks have reached a very advanced stage.

Burdened with heavy debts and suffering a decline in orders, Alstom is in a dire need to get a partner in one way or another. The French engineering group, which had to seek a bailout package from the government in 2004, employs nearly 18,000 people in France.