GE in talks to buy French engineering company Alstom

Alstom shares jump as news of a possible purchase by GE hits the markets.
By Ananth Baliga   |   April 24, 2014 at 7:58 AM
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FAIRFIELD , Conn., April 24 (UPI) -- General Electric is in talks to buy French company Alstom, which builds trains and power pants, in what could be the former's largest acquisition ever.

While Alstom has said that it is not aware of any potential deal, Bloomberg reported the two companies have discussed a potential deal with the French government. People close to the deal said that the GE could pay $13 billion for Alstom and the announcement could be made next week.

The $13 billion price tag would be 25 percent higher than Alstom's current market value, and not surprisingly the stock surged 18 percent in Paris, the highest jump since 2004.

GE has started to shift its focus to making jet engines, trains and industrial equipment and has shrunk its financial services division, GE Capital, which brought the company close to disaster during the financial crisis. The deal would give GE access to Alstom's power transmission and power plant maintenance technology and would be a rare instance of a major French company being acquired by a U.S. rival.

“Acquiring Alstom would put an exclamation point on GE’s return to deals,” said Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Steven Winoker. “It is among the best fits we have seen with the GE portfolio for some time.”

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt could use the company's $57 billion foreign cash reserves to finance the deal, according to a person close to the matter. Immelt had earlier said the company was looking for acquisitions in the range of $1 billion to $4 billion but was willing to spend more for companies “that have excellent values, strong synergies, fit our growth strategies and are immediately accretive.”

Alstom employs 93,000 people and has business interests in about 100 countries. It is responsible for manufacturing TGV trains and supplies Eurostar trains as well.

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