January 10, 2019 / 5:16 PM / 7 months ago

Siemens, Alstom making new offers to win EU approval for rail plan: sources

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Industrial groups Siemens (SIEGn.DE) and Alstom (ALSO.PA) are discussing additional divestments with the European Commission to win approval for their plan to create a joint Franco-German rail champion, sources told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: Henri Poupart-Lafarge, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Alstom, and Siemens President and CEO Joe Kaeser attend a news conference to announce their deal to merge their rail operations, creating a European champion, in Paris, France, September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

The move is meant to overcome concerns from antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who in December voiced her doubts over the impact that their deal would have on high-speed trains.

Three sources close to the talks said on Thursday fresh concessions were being made by the two firms to convince the EU Commission. The companies have made additional concessions to extend the geographical scope of their earlier offers and are now detailing their plan with Brussels.

Siemens and Alstom had already offered to sell either one of their high-speed train-making businesses and the bulk of Alstom’s signaling business in Europe in addition to some Siemens signaling assets.

But these offers were seen as not sufficient by Britain’s CMA competition watchdog and its counterparts in the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.

The regulators said in December they were worried about the supply of very high-speed rolling stock for trains such as the Eurostar which links the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The Commission’s current deadline to decide on the operation is February 18.

A spokesman for Vestager declined to comment.

On Wednesday in a speech in Germany Vestager said she was in favor of fostering European industrial champions. But she stressed: “We can’t build those champions by undermining competition.”

Two senior EU officials told Reuters there was some support within the EU commission over the deal, if sufficient remedies were offered.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, Peter Maushagen, Alexander Huebner, and Alastair Macdonald; Writing by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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