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Battle for France's Alstom heats up with Siemens offer

PARIS--German industrial giant Siemens said Sunday it wanted to discuss strategic opportunities with France's Alstom, raising the prospect of a takeover tussle with General Electric (GE) for the beleaguered firm.

The offer came on the heels of reports that the U.S. giant wants to buy the French engineering group, which manufactures the country's groundbreaking high-speed TGV trains.

Alstom is a politically sensitive symbol of engineering prowess in France and a key exporter, seen as one of the jewels of French industry.

GE chief Jeff Immelt was expected in Paris on Sunday but a meeting with France's Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg was deferred by Montebourg's office, which said the minister needed more time to examine the offers following the Siemens announcement.

Montebourg's office did not give a new date or time for the meeting with Immelt.

According to earlier press reports, the GE boss could also meet with Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Sunday. But informed sources in the government said no such meeting had been penciled in as yet.

Montebourg, a fierce protector of French industry, has pledged to study various options for Alstom following reports that GE would bid to buy the company's power-generation division, accounting for more than 70 percent of its business with revenues of 14 billion euros (US$19 billion).

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