Germany presses for changes in EU competition rules after Siemens/Alstom deal blocked

FILE PHOTO - German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier presents the national industry strategy for 2030 during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - Europe should change its competition rules to facilitate cross-border mergers and create European champions which can compete with rivals from China and the United States, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Wednesday.

Siemens and Alstom’s plan to create a European rail champion collapsed on Wednesday after EU anti-trust regulators rejected the deal, saying that it would have hurt competition and led to higher prices for consumers.

“We do respect the decision and the authority of the European Commission, but we are convinced that we must think about and decide on future changes of European competition rules,” Altmaier told reporters in Berlin.

“I’ve agreed with my French colleague Bruno Le Maire that we will prepare a joint Franco-German initiative that is aimed at getting an up-to-date adjustment of European competition law.”

Altmaier said he did not want to elaborate on competition issues in the specific case of Siemens and Alstom just hours after the European Commission’s decision on the case, but he hinted that he would like to see a second push for the merger.

“I’ve been in contact for many weeks now with my French colleague, with the people in charge at the Commission as well as with the companies, and we will continue this work, and I am convinced that there is still a chance for a good and sustainable solution,” Altmaier said.

“We still think it’s right for Europe to join forces, and we think it’s right that the two big companies work together in the field of rail technology and signaling technology in the railway sector, because only then are they will be big and strong enough to compete with other competitors worldwide,” Altmaier said.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Michelle Martin and Angus MacSwan