US conglomerate GE considers buying struggling French train and turbine maker Alstom.
The information, revealed by Bloomberg, raised concerns within the French government who would prefer to keep control over the engineering firm, still considered France's technology treasure.
Alstom, the manufacturer of high-speed TGV and until recently also Eurostar trains, has seen its shares drop by 30 per cent since last year due to concerns over cash flow. The company said it has suffered from a drop in demand for power plants and decided to cut 1,300 jobs and sell parts of its transport business in November last year.
The uncertainty about Alstom’s future prompted France’s stock market regulator to suspend trading Alstom’s shares, awaiting the company’s statement regarding the rumoured GE takeover.
"The government expresses patriotic concern and watchfulness with regard to Alstom," said France’s Economy Minister Aranud Montebourg. "This concern is focused on the serious risk of losing a major decision centre. With the prime minister (Manuel Valls), we will meet the president of General Electric in order to focus our talks on these concerns," he said, adding that he had met Alstom's chief executive on Thursday.
After the Bloomberg announcement, Alstom’s shares jumped by 17 per cent on Thursday, only to fall back 11 per cent before the end of trading.
Alstom, employing 93,000 people, has interests in about 100 countries around the world. Bloomberg said GE is considering buying the group for about £7.7bn.