PARIS – French President Francois Hollande’s government said General Electric Co. improved its proposal for Alstom SA’s energy business as CEO Jeffrey Immelt pledged to create new jobs, softening its stance on the U.S. company’s takeover plans.
The French government, which has openly advocated a European solution, said GE’s plans are now more precise and strengthened after a meeting between Hollande and Immelt in Paris on Wednesday. The U.S. company will create 1,000 new industrial jobs in France in three years, a person familiar with the matter said, asking not to be named as the matter is not public.
Immelt on Tuesday made a rare appearance by a U.S. CEO before France’s National Assembly, saying his $17 billion bid for Alstom’s energy assets would protect jobs and the nation’s industrial base. Immelt’s personal appeal to political leaders highlighted the importance attached to Alstom by both GE and the French government, which is seeking to extract the best guarantees from any bidder for jobs and the country’s energy independence.
“The government is looking for broader electorate support after the failures in the European elections,” Paris-based Saxobank analyst Christopher Dembik said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “The role of the government is to get the best offer from GE.”
France’s National Front, an anti-euro, anti-immigration party, last week won its first-ever victory in nationwide voting in European parliamentary elections, dealing a further blow to Hollande, the least popular leader in the country’s modern history.
Hollande and Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg previously had called on GE to improve its offer for the energy unit of Alstom, which is also the company supplying turbines for Deepwater Wind LLC’s 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm project. Hollande had said the initial bid is “not acceptable” and has called for stronger workforce guarantees, while Montebourg has publicly stated a preference for the proposal from Munich-based Siemens AG.
Montebourg said Wednesday that GE’s offer has improved following Immelt’s job pledge.