EU sends antitrust warning to Siemens, Alstom over rail merger

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's antitrust regulator has sent a series of objections to Siemens SIEGn.DE and Alstom ALSO.PA over their plans to create a Franco-German rail champion through a merger, an EU Commission spokesman said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: French High Speed Train (TGV) made by French train maker Alstom stops next to a German High Speed Train (ICE) made by Siemens at Munich's railway station June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Lukas Barth/File Photo

The move follows the opening of a full-scale investigation into the deal in July and will force Siemens and Alstom to come up with specific concessions, which may include asset sales, to address the problems singled out by the Commission.

“The Commission can confirm that it has sent a statement of objections to the parties in the Siemens/Alstom case. Our investigation is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email.

Confirming Siemens had received the Commission’s objections, a spokesman said: “We are still confident that we can conclude this transaction in the first half of 2019.”

An Alstom spokesman echoed that view and said the company now had “the opportunity to access the case file and respond to the Commission”.

“It does not prejudge the final decision of the European Commission,” he added.

The Commission has set a Jan. 28, 2019, deadline for completing its in-depth investigation.

German industrial group Siemens and French rival Alstom announced the planned rail merger in September last year, backed by French President Emmanuel Macron but criticized by opposition politicians who fear France would lose control of the TGV high-speed train.

Siemens makes ICE high-speed trains. Rivals say the power of the combined company could shut them out of the European market.

“We are confident that the European Commission will scrupulously apply the competition rules,” said Daniel Desjardins, Vice President of Bombardier, a Canadian maker of trains and airplanes.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, Foo Yun Chee, Alexander Huebner Riham Alkousaa and Inti Landauro; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Mark Potter