GE-Alstom Deal Filed as EU Watchdog Eyes Decision by Feb. 23

General Electric Co.’s bid to buy most of Alstom SA’s energy business faces an initial Feb. 23 deadline for the European Union’s competition arm to rule on the deal.

The companies filed the transaction yesterday with the EU, according to a filing on the Brussels-based European Commission’s website.

The notification comes nearly nine months after GE placed its 12.4 billion-euro ($14.4 billion) offer. GE and Alstom’s objective is to complete the deal, subject to regulatory approval, by the middle of this year, representatives for both companies said.

“The pre-notification phase was very long,” Didier Theophile, a lawyer at Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier in Paris, said. That means either the companies are aiming for a speedy phase I clearance as Holcim Ltd. and Lafarge SA did last year or the transaction is more complex than anticipated.

Under the EU’s merger-review process, most deals are cleared at the first hurdle, known as phase I. The commission can open an in-depth probe -- a so-called phase II investigation -- if companies haven’t allayed all competition concerns flagged by regulators. This can prolong the process by about four months.

GE will cooperate fully with the European Commission throughout the review process, Dominic McMullan, a spokesman for the company said in an e-mail.

The EU’s backing is key for GE, which saw its purchase of U.S. rival Honeywell International Inc. scuttled by the bloc’s regulator in 2001.

“Between Honeywell and today, we’ve had 80 deals approved in Brussels,” GE Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt said last June. “We know the process. I very much trust that the process will be fair.”

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