Siemens CEO Says EU Would Have a Point in Blocking Alstom Deal
(Bloomberg) -- Siemens AG Chief Executive Officer Joe Kaeser may have undermined his own case in his latest salvo to defend a planned rail merger with Alstom SA.
The head of the German engineering company is locked in battle with Europe’s top antitrust official, Margrethe Vestager, to gain approval for the companies’ tie up. His Monday morning tweet was a tacit admission that the EU is set to block the deal and in doing so would be within its rights under the region’s competition law.
“Those who love Europe should shape their future and not lose themselves in backward formulas. It must be bitter if you are technically right but do everything wrong for Europe,” Kaeser wrote. He was responding to a picture Vestager tweeted with the caption “because we love Europe, we must change it.”
Kaeser’s words may leave the German and French companies with little wiggle room to contest such a decision.
The EU’s chief antitrust economist, Tommaso Valletti, quickly jumped on Kaeser’s comment, responding that it “must be the first time” someone acknowledges the competition body’s work is technically right.
Vestager has come under intense political pressure to approve the deal that the companies seem to have long known could be problematic from an antitrust point of view. In unveiling their combination 1 1/2 years ago, they stressed a greater need to create a “European champion” to compete worldwide with an emerging rival from China.
Rhetoric has risen in recent days, with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire weighing in Monday with a call for nothing less than the complete revamp of the region’s competition law. The European Commission is set to make a decision on the rail merger on either Feb. 6 or Feb. 12.
German executives are generally shy on social media, with Kaeser and SAP CEO Bill McDermott among the only top bosses to write regularly.
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