Siemens, Alstom sweeten EU antitrust concessions, maybe too late

FILE PHOTO: European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager speaks during an interview with Reuters at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 10, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Siemens and Alstom on Friday beefed up concessions aimed at allaying EU antitrust concerns about their rail merger deal, a person familiar with the matter said, in a belated and possibly futile move to stave off an EU veto against the deal.

German company Siemens and French peer Alstom have said their deal aims to help them better deal with China’s state-owned CRRC Corp Ltd, an assertion dismissed by the European Commission.

The companies, which offered to license parts of Siemens’s high-speed train business and sell parts of their signaling operations, are now prepared to share Siemens’ high-speed train technology for 10 years instead of five in Europe, the source said.

They are also willing to extend non-exclusive licensing outside Europe but excluding China, Japan and South Korea, and sell more signaling assets, the person said.

Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said that the enforcer’s investigation was ongoing. Bloomberg first reported the new concessions.

To convince EU regulators at this late stage of the process, concessions must fully and unambiguously resolve competition concerns, according to EU merger rules.

People familiar with the matter said last week that the EU competition watchdog will block the deal, with a decision likely on Feb. 6 ahead of the Feb. 18 deadline.

Competition agencies in Germany, Britain, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium have warned against the deal, saying that the first set of concessions fell short. Alstom unions have also criticized the deal.

The Commission will brief national regulators on Jan. 31.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Louise Heavens