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09.11.18

Siemens CEO says it is ‘willing to make concessions’ to secure EU approval for Alstom merger

The chief executive of Siemens has said he is “willing to make concessions” if necessary in order to gain EU approval for its proposed rail merger with Alstom.

Joe Kaeser, head of the German rail giant speaking at Siemens’ annual press conference where it releases its financial figures for the year, said he was relaxed about the EU Commissions’ objections to the merger.

Kaeser said the deal made economic sense but that if the antitrust regulators quash the deal, then “we were willing to make concessions, that still holds true,” as reported in the Financial Times.

Last week, the commission sent a series of objections to the merger to both Siemens and Alstom, which increases the likelihood of the companies having to sell of some their assets to secure EU approval.

This follows the EU Commission launching a full-scale investigation into the merger over the concerns that the combined company may reduce competition in the supply of trains and signalling systems.

The French and German companies proposed the merger last September to create a global train manufacturer which would be capable of competing with Chinese rail companies, but many within the UK rail industry, including Network Rail and the ORR, have criticised the deal.

But when asked by a reporter if he was angry the deal was being stonewalled by regulators, Kaeser replied that if anything he was relaxed and said that his focus was on the ongoing dialogue between his company and the antitrust authorities.

Kaeser said that “certain interests must be reconciled,” but that if following the discussions the deal fell through, then this would not rule out the merger.

He said: “We think it’s the best solution; if it doesn’t materialise we will find other solutions.”

Siemens and Alstom have until mid-December to offer remedies that address the EU Commission’s objections, with a deadline of 28 January 2019 set for a decision on the merger.

Network Rail’s chief executive Andrew Haines wrote to the commission last month asking it to intervene in the merger, which he called “one of the most significant threats to our operations at present.”

Haines said that the deal “stands to do great harm to the railways in Great Britain,” but if it could not be prevented then the only way to restore competition would be an appropriate structural divestment, with the new company forced into substantial asset sales.

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Image credit - Sven Hoppe/DPA/PA Images

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