In the wrangling over the planned merger of the siemens train division with the french manufacturer alstom, the companies do not want to make any further concessions to the EU commission. The commission takes an extremely critical view of the project.
We will now wait and see how brussel decides, was the word from the munich-based technology group on thursday. In the past few days, the responsible parties have once again made further offers. In the environment of the companies, one was skeptical to have convinced the commission with it. But there will be no more concessions.
The authorities fear for competition within the EU if the manufacturers of the high-speed trains TGV and ICE merge – both in terms of trains and signaling technology. It therefore demands that competitors cede parts of these areas of the business to rivals.
From the point of view of the two groups and their respective governments, however, the merger is an important step toward countering growing train competition from china in the future. According to its own statements, siemens has therefore offered, among other things, enchantments with a volume of around four percent of sales, i.E. Around 600 million euros. These had mainly related to signaling, where the competition in europe is considered comparatively weak.
For the competition authorities of great britain, spain, the netherlands, belgium and germany, however, this is not enough. They took a stand against the project in letters to the EU commission.
The sticking point in the discussions, according to the circles, were demands by the EU authority that the companies should also make concessions in the area of high-speed technology with speeds of 250 kilometers per hour or more. Siemens then agreed to transfer its older velaro technology, on which the ICE 3 is also based, to its competitors.
But the commission also demanded that competitors have access to newer train platforms for ten years. During this time, siemens/alstom had not been allowed to use the technology itself – too long for the companies, as it has now been pointed out. They had already "pretty much gone to the edge" with their own concessions. The company was surprised by the objections in the area of high-speed technology, it said on thursday. Competition is largely a given here, he said, in view of several european competitors.
The ball is thus in the commission’s court. By 18. It has until february 18 to decide whether or not to approve the merger. But even though competition commissioner margrethe vestager is leading the way on this issue, there are differences within the eu commission. On tuesday, economic commissioner pierre moscovici described a debate among the 28 EU commissioners as an "honest, open discussion". "We want to take into account the developments of tomorrow’s economy. We are not naive," the french socialist continued.
Pressure is also being exerted by the french government, which, like the german government, is clearly in favor of the merger. "A rejection by the eu commission would be an economic mistake and also a political error," government spokesman benjamin griveaux said in unusually clear terms after a cabinet meeting in paris on wednesday. If the deal fails in europe, it would be a "bad signal" for the people in europe.
Failure of the merger, however, had little short-term impact for the groups. Both the french train manufacturer alstom and the corresponding siemens division are doing extremely well. In the third quarter (to the end of december), alstom doubled its new business to 3.4 billion euros, the group announced in paris on thursday. Sales rose by 10 percent to 2 billion euros. Siemens’ train division also recently recorded significant growth in sales and earnings.
With the merger, siemens and alstom wanted to counteract the now world-beating train manufacturer CRRC from china at an early stage. They fear that china could be in the running for the next wave of high-speed train tenders in europe in about five years’ time.