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Alstom talks prompt ‘patriotic’ worry in France

The French government is looking at ‘alternatives’ after word broke American giant GE is in talks to buy key marquee French industrial firm Alstom. The finance minister said it’s a matter of 'patriotic concern.'

Alstom talks prompt ‘patriotic’ worry in France
France is worried because French industrial giant Alstom may be bought by a GE. Photo: Sebastian Bozon/AFP

Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg said on Friday that negotiations to sell French industrial heavyweight Altsom to US-based GE have prompted 'patriotic' worries at the core of the French government, which is seeking alternatives to the deal under discussion.

At stake is Alstom SA, builder of steam turbines for nuclear power plants, which is one of France’s crown industrial jewels. The government has already stepped in to save the company through a 2004 bailout when it was on the brink of financial collapse, Bloomberg reported. Alstom has some 18,000 employees in France alone.

Included in the deal is unit of the company that makes France’s high speed TGV trains, a source of national pride. The idea of the firm falling into foreign hands, as the country battles record unemployment, has rattled leaders.

“The government is working on alternatives and contingencies other than those conceived by Alstom without the knowledge of the government,” Montebourg told French daily Le Monde. “Alstom is a symbol of our industrial power and French ingenuity. In this case, the government expresses a concern and patriotic vigilance (about the talks).”

France has a reputation for making demands in big business deals and has stepped in stop those its sees as bad for the country or its identity. For example in 2005 the country passed an anti-takeover decree that stopped a cold a would-be Pepsico acquisition of Danone.

A sale of Alstom also could raise the possibility of restructuring or job losses, a highly undesirable outcome as France tries to right its moribund economy and bring down unemployment. France is trying to spur growth by cutting taxes and thinning its famous thicket of bureaucracy.

However, should the Alstom deal go through it would be to an American-led corporation that is considered to be heavily French, Le Monde reported. It’s been working in France since 1974, when launched a joint venture with a French aircraft engine maker.

The French wing of the group — led by Frenchwoman Clara Gaymard — employs some 11,000 workers and has it European headquarters in France.

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BUSINESS

France’s Mediawan buys majority stake in Brad Pitt’s Plan B

French media company Mediawan has bought a majority stake in US film star Brad Pitt's production house Plan B Entertainment, it said Friday, in a deal reportedly worth more than $300 million.

France's Mediawan buys majority stake in Brad Pitt's Plan B

Plan B, co-founded by Pitt in the early 2000s with his then-wife Jennifer Aniston has three best picture Oscar winners to its name: “The Departed”, “Twelve Years a Slave” and “Moonlight”.

The deal “marks the deployment of Mediawan into the American market,” the French company said in a press release which did not say how much the deal was worth.

The Financial Times reported the deal had valued Plan B Entertainment at more than $300 million.

“Cinema is becoming international. Talents are emerging all over the world,” Pitt said in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper. “For our future projects, we have to look outside the United States.”

With Mediawan “we have the same conception of how to produce films and series,” he added.

In a press release Mediawan CEO Pierre-Antoine Capton said the deal was “an exceptional opportunity to be able to develop Mediawan alongside Plan B, the most beautiful independent production company in the US.”

Founded in 2015 Mediawan produces and distributes films, series and streaming shows and has recently snapped up several production houses across Europe.

It produced the hit Netflix show “Call My Agent.”

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