Home business German antitrust hostile to Alstom-Siemens marriage

German antitrust hostile to Alstom-Siemens marriage

Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser and Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge in September 2017 in Paris.
Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser and Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge in Paris in September 2017. THOMAS SAMSON / AFP

The shadows pile up day after day at the wedding of Alstom and Siemens Mobility to create a European giant of railway constructions that is capable of competing with the Chinese CRRC, which would be twice as large as the new group. The German competition authority has just written to Brussels to express it "Serious doubts" about the benefits of a rapprochement between French and German companies, it explains Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Sunday, January 13 and the Financial Times Monday, 14th, after reading this letter.

This criticism corresponds to the warnings of the past few weeks by the competition authorities of Spain, Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands, which do not have a major railway sector. equivalents. They believe that Alstom-Siemens will have an exorbitant market share in many countries in the delivery of high-speed trains and signaling. But the "Remedies" charged by both groups "Complaints" in October by Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition, these are still considered insufficient by these antitrust authorities.

Read also Alstom and Siemens offer modest concessions in Brussels to accept their wedding

As early as December 2018, the Bundeskartellamt, the German competition regulator, had ruled that Alstom and Siemens did not "Not adjusted or sufficient" under the competition rules, the British daily reports. Granting temporary licenses for the former Siemens Valero generation, giving up Alstom & # 39; s Pendolino (pendulum training) or removing seiner stones did not seem sufficient.

A college of different Commissioners debates Tuesday in Brussels, a procedure that is rather unusual. It will not only deal with the issue from the perspective of competition, but from a broader perspective, including the threat of extra-European, especially Chinese, competition. Chinese groups even benefit from important government assistance (financing, regulation, protection of the internal market …), which Brussels can not ignore.

Mr. Macron and Mr.me Merkel supported the merger project

It remains that Mme Vestager considers the Chinese threat overrated, although the CRRC has already launched markets in the United States and is entering Eastern Europe with competing products. The Danish Commissioner has until 18 February to take a final decision on an issue that goes beyond mere competition cases in the current context.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Alstom-Siemens merger: "Will the establishment of an Airbus for the railways benefit the European consumer?"

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have supported the merger plan since its announcement in September 2017. According to them, it is an operation that contributes to the consolidation of Europe, while in May there is a high-risk voting Parliament and then the Commission.

The question is now openly stated, at least in Paris: it is not the competition law "Outdated"according to Bruno Le Maire, the French Minister of Economy; does it not delay the establishment of European champions in the light of the rise of Chinese industrial giants? In the railways of course, but also the power grids (State Grid), nuclear power stations (CGN and CNNC), telecommunications equipment (Huawei and ZTE).

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If the Alstom-Siemens merger derailed, that would be an a "Political error"According to Mr Mayor, the debate on competition in the European Union will start again. Mme Vestager will then have the good fortune to say that the Commission has never prevented the birth of champions, as is clear from the example of Airbus. Since the nineties, the services have blocked only twenty-seven operations (Legrand-Schneider, LSE and Deutsche Börse …), but they have approved 6,000 (pharmacy, mass distribution, steel, automotive …).

Jean-Michel Owned

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