Chirac backs 'well-balanced' Alstom partnership

13th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 13 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that Paris was favourable to any partnership deals for struggling engineering group Alstom as long as the partnership on offer was "well-balanced".

PARIS, May 13 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that Paris was favourable to any partnership deals for struggling engineering group Alstom as long as the partnership on offer was "well-balanced".

"France is in favour of all partnerships provided that they are
well-balanced," Chirac told a joint press conference with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

"It's really not up to me to prejudge the situation. The decision is not a French or a German decision. It also falls in large part on Brussels," the French leader added, saying talks were ongoing in Paris, Brussels and Berlin.

Industrial policy had been atop the agenda for the Chirac-Schroeder talks, with Berlin upset about France's interventions to save Alstom and in favour of the merger of drugs group Sanofi-Synthelabo and French-German rival Aventis.

Chirac said French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin would travel to Berlin at month's end to meet with Schroeder on ways to encourage the emergence of "industrial champions" in Europe.

French lobbying in favour of the Sanofi-Aventis tie-up provoked criticism in Germany, where part of Aventis was based, and in other European countries on the grounds that France was reverting to interventionism in industry.

The European Commission said Thursday it had narrowed differences with France over a rescue plan for Alstom which was put together with government help last year to save the group from collapse. The commission added that new talks were expected to take place next week.

Alstom, a French and European engineering giant, builds power stations, ships and rolling stock for the high-speed TGV train. There has been widespread speculation, denied by the government, that the group might be broken up through a series of alliances.

The French government has drawn up a EUR 3.2 billion (USD 3.8 billion) rescue plan for the heavily indebted group that would combine assistance from the French state and private banks.

But the scheme needs approval from the Commission, with a decision due by June 21.

©AFP

Subject: French news

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