France Solicited Siemens Offer for Alstom, Montebourg Says

France sought a counteroffer from Germany’s Siemens AG after it learned of General Electric Co.’s bid for Alstom SA, Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said.

Speaking at a National Assembly committee hearing today, Montebourg said the French government prefers alliances to takeovers.

“We prefer alliances to absorption,” he said. “We have nothing against the companies interested in Alstom.” He cited a jet-engine joint venture between GE and France’s Safran SA as his preferred model for Alstom.

GE made a 12.4 billion-euro ($17 billion) offer for Alstom’s energy business. Alstom’s board has appointed a committee of independent directors to review the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company’s bid by June 2, the two companies said today. If the review concludes positively, negotiations will then be on an exclusive basis, Alstom said.

Alstom gained as much as 15 percent in Paris trading today.

The announcement leaves the door open for a rival offer from Siemens, which yesterday said it will make an offer for Alstom pending access to financial information.

Alstom is not a company in difficulty and can take its time to “intelligently” choose its alliances, Montebourg said.

Montebourg indicated that he preferred a Siemens solution, saying that France and Germany shared the same social model, unlike the U.S., and that France and Germany had more of a history of working out differences between them.

“We have one month to decide,” he said.

The French government in 2005 passed an anti-takeover decree driven by speculation that PepsiCo. Inc was planning a bid for yogurt maker Danone. The list of industries protected in the 2005 law includes weapons and secret defense contracts, corporate and computer security, monitoring and encryption technology, vaccines against biological weapons and technologies with both military and civilian uses.

Montebourg today said that while the 2005 decree can prevent certain nuclear-power related assets from being sold off, it doesn’t allow the government to block the sale of the entire business.

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