The sinking of a French industrial flagship

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The fate of Alstom, one of France’s largest private-sector employees, now hangs on frantic negotiations over two rival bids for the cash-strapped French engineering group’s energy division, which represents 70% of its activities. After weeks of secret negotiations between Alstom and US conglomerate General Electric, their German competitor Siemens stepped in with its own offer at the weekend. Siemens’ bid, offering a swap of energy and transport arms, has been welcomed by the French government, with its economy minister talking up the creation of "two European and global champions in the energy and transport domains" as it faces major political embarrassment over the amputation of a giant of French industry. Mediapart's business and financial affairs correspondent Martine Orange charts the background to Alstom’s decline, and details why the social and industrial consequences for France will be serious whichever deal is accepted.     

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Just hours before the board of French engineering giant Alstom was due to meet on Sunday to discuss a 12.7 billion-dollar (10 billion-euro) offer by US conglomerate General Electric (GE) for the struggling French firm's energy division, German engineering and electronics corporation Siemens weighed in with a counter-offer that gave the French government a welcomed Plan B.