Following its purchase in 2015 of the power branch of French engineering firm Alstom, General Electric put in place a vast tax avoidance scheme involving subsidiaries in Switzerland and the US state of Delaware to syphon off hundreds of millions of euros that would otherwise have been subject to taxes in France, according to an investigation by Mediapart’s online partner newsroom Disclose. What’s more, the scheme appears to have had the blessing of the French economy and finance ministry.
US group General Electric (GE) last month announced it would axe more than 1,000 jobs from its energy arm in France, most of them at its gas turbine plant at Belfort, in the north-east of the country, which it bought from French firm Alstom in 2015. The news, which notably came two days after the European elections in France, caused uproar among trades unions and local politicians, and follows GE’s payment of a 50-million-euro fine earlier this year for failing to honour its pledge, when it acquired Alstom’s energy division, of creating 1,000 jobs by 2018. Mediapart has obtained the contract inked by GE and the French state in November 2014 which set the terms for the sale of the Alstom business, and it reveals that the US group has also failed to honour other commitments towards its operations in France.
In the immediate aftermath of the European elections, in which the ruling centrists lost to Marine Le Pen's far-right party, the French government has had to deal with impending job losses at three major industrial sites. It is, argues Martine Orange, the outcome of a deliberate policy by President Emmanuel Macron: the massive and organised destruction of French industry. Mediapart's finance and business writer says that as a result France runs the risk of being trapped permanently in austerity and unable to forge an industrial future for itself.
US corporation General Electric faces fines of 50,000 euros for every job it promised but has failed to create after its purchase in 2014 of the energy arm of French engineering company Alstom, labour minister Muriel Penicaud has said.
Alstom CEO said the company will go ahead with closure of manufacturing at its historic train-building plant, affecting 400 staff, despite President Hollande's pledge to do 'everything' to halt the plan.
Just a few weeks ago the chief executive of French company Alstom suggested that the group had no alternative but to sell its energy section outright to American firm General Electric. But then the economy minister Arnaud Montebourg stepped into the fray and brokered a deal, agreed last weekend, that offers considerably better prospects for one of France's flagship companies. And in doing so, says Martine Orange, the minister has not only scored a personal political victory, he has also shown that the state is not always powerless to intervene on the industrial landscape.
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