Alstom, Siemens Announce Merger to Create European Train Business--Update
By Matthew Dalton
PARIS -- German industrial company Siemens AG on Tuesday agreed to merge its rail operations with French train-maker Alstom SA, aiming to create a European giant with the scale to fight growing competitive threats from state-backed Chinese rivals.
Under the deal, Siemens will have majority control of the new company, receiving slightly more than 50% of its shares, officials from Alstom and Siemens said. Alstom shareholders will receive two special dividends totaling EUR1.8 billion: EUR4 per share for surrendering control of the company and EUR4 per share as an "extraordinary dividend," the companies said.
The proposed merger marks a major test of Europe's ability to overcome national economic rivalries and establish a European champion, akin to Airbus SE in aviation. The deal faces the risk of political backlash in France, where Alstom's factories have been a symbol of national industry for more than a century.
Yet the merger has strong backing from French President Emmanuel Macron, who has argued that Europe needs to cooperate across borders to compete better against economic powers in China, the U.S. and elsewhere. The deal echoes the political overtures Mr. Macron is making to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to bolster the eurozone economy by establishing a shared budget for the currency bloc.
"We put the European idea to work and together with our friends at Alstom, we are creating a new European champion in the rail industry for the long term, " said Siemens Chief Executive Joe Kaeser.
The deal would dilute French control over Alstom, which shrank dramatically in 2015 when the company sold its electric turbine division to U.S. industrial conglomerate General Electric Co.
That deal handed a key piece of France's nuclear power business to G.E., outraging members of France's socialist government at the time. The labor minister called it a "breach of national ethics."
To ease French concerns, the current chief executive of Alstom, Frenchman Henri Poupart-Lafarge, will lead the new business. Its headquarters will remain in France, as will its research and development centers. Siemens will be prohibited from owning more than 50.5% of the new company for four years, but after that can boost its stake as much as it likes.