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Alstom suspends trading ahead of possible bidding war

PARIS--French engineering group Alstom said on Sunday that it has suspended trading in its shares as expectations grew for a possible bidding war between industrial giants General Electric and Siemens.

The announcement came after French President Francois Hollande held a special meeting with senior ministers to discuss the future of the beleaguered firm, once considered a jewel of French industry that has fallen on hard times.

Germany's Siemens earlier in the day said it wanted to discuss strategic opportunities with Alstom, which it pursued without success a decade ago, after reports that U.S. giant GE was seeking to buy the company's power generation arm.

“Given the strategic issues for industry and the French economy, the government will not accept a decision, whatever it is, in haste or without considering the interests of the country,” said France's Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg.

Alstom said in a statement its shares would be suspended from trading in Paris until no later than Wednesday morning as it “continues and deepens its strategic reflection” on the future of its business, without giving further details.

The potential bidding war for the former industrial icon comes as France is seeking to jump start its economy by cutting public spending while relieving taxes on businesses.

Hollande's office said he was due to meet GE chief Jeff Immelt early on Monday to discuss options on the deal.

Although the French state has not held a stake in Alstom since 2006, France's Socialist government wants to obtain guarantees on “jobs, the location of activities and energy independence,” Hollande's office said.

Paris will also be “extremely vigilant with regard to the continued excellence and independence of the French nuclear industry,” the economy ministry added.

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).

Protecting French Interests

Press reports said GE, which has 305,000 employees around the world and posted revenues of US$146 billion last year, was ready to fork out 10 billion euros for the deal.

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In this Jan. 23, 2013 file photo, flags of German engineering conglomerate Siemens AG flutter before the annual shareholder meeting in Munich, southern Germany. Siemens AG says it is prepared to discuss a tie-up with its French rival Alstom.

(AP)

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