Germany Signals Siemens Backing Over GE in Battle for Alstom

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government signaled support for Siemens AG’s bid to prevent General Electric Co. from acquiring Alstom SA of France as a way to boost Europe’s industrial power.

Munich-based Siemens is considering “a partial takeover” of its French rival that “offers great opportunities and potential for Germany and France from an industrial-policy standpoint,” Stefan Rouenhoff, a spokesman for the German Economy Ministry, said in Berlin today.

The German government is in contact with French President Francois Hollande’s administration about the talks involving the three companies, Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, said at the same news briefing.

The comments were the first public indication of Germany’s position since GE Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt’s bid for Alstom prompted a counteroffer by Siemens to swap assets with Alstom in an intra-European deal. Hollande planned to meet with Siemens executives in Paris today after receiving Immelt.

A French-German tie-up would be a sign of cooperation among the euro area’s two biggest economies after Merkel and Hollande agreed in February to cooperate on energy policy and help protect Europe’s industrial base.

The French government doesn’t oppose GE’s proposal, and the meeting between Immelt and Hollande focused on protecting jobs and maintaining the independence of France’s nuclear industry, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions who asked not to be named because they are private.

A day earlier, French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg backed a deal with Siemens, which would entail exchanging some of its rail assets for Alstom’s energy division and creating two “European champions.” Alstom’s market value is about 8.3 billion euros ($11.5 billion).

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, the head of Merkel’s Social Democratic junior coalition partner, is “in permanent contact with all parties involved” and is keeping Merkel informed of the state of play, Rouenhoff said.

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