Posted on Oct 23, 2020 at 6:34 PMUpdated Oct 23, 2020, 8:01 PM
The sale to a third of Alstom’s train plant in Reichshoffen (Bas-Rhin), imposed at the end of July by Brussels as one of the fairly limited counterparties, to the green light for the takeover of Bombardier Transport, is accelerating. According to our information, the French group would have finally chosen to open exclusive negotiations, as of next Monday, with the Czech Skoda Transportation (400 million euros in turnover) rather than with the Spanish CAF (2.7 billion). The latter could represent, in the long term, a much more ambitious rival and aspires to strengthen itself in France, the second European rail market. An option that Alstom “does not wish to comment on” at this stage.
Until now, the tempo was not led to hellish train: “the closing of the operation could take place after the closing of the acquisition of Bombardier, that is to say after the first quarter of 2021”, one explained. in recent days at Alstom headquarters. In fact, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager did not force the group led by Henri Poupart-Lafarge to complete this sale at short notice: it is just a question of opening “exclusive negotiations” with a nominated candidate beforehand, and if no agreement is signed before July 31, 2021, then a “trustee” (trustee) will be in charge of the file, according to concordant sources.
Two buyers for a factory
However, Alstom had little interest in playing extra time, while two candidates came out of the woods, the Spanish CAF and the Czech Skoda Transportation, and the 850 employees of the Alsatian site (a thousand with temporary workers), s’ have been asking questions for four months about their future. Above all, another more gripping dossier awaits Alstom: the treatment of duplicates between its own technical and commercial organization and that of Bombardier, primarily in Europe.
On the Alsatian site, the unions expressed their preference in favor of the Spanish Basque group CAF. Believing that dubbing Skoda Transportation (which has long had nothing to do with the automobile brand known for its Superb sedans, owned by Volkswagen) would amount to bringing one more operator into the national rail market. Owned by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, who has a strong presence in telecoms, through his investment fund PPF, Skoda Transportation is a private joint-stock company based in Pilsen, the beer capital in the west of the former Czechoslovakia. , and is conspicuous by its absence in Western Europe.
CAF is preferred by unions
Is Alstom betting that the Czech, the less successful of the two candidates, represents a lesser danger in the long term? Does he have a stubborn grudge against CAF, since he took at his expense the SNCF contract to renew the Intercités Paris-Toulouse and Paris-Clermont Ferrand trains (28 trains to be supplied from 2024, plus 75 options) ? These trainsets will be assembled in the Pyrenean factory in Bagnères-de-Bigorre, the former CFD that the Basque CAF bought in 2008, with at the time a meager portfolio of customers.
CAF, which has already doubled in size in 5 years, thanks to its growth in countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands and takeovers such as the Polish bus manufacturer Solaris, relies heavily on France to continue its development. Especially since the current takeover of Bombardier Transport by Alstom will give the new group a virtual monopoly position in France.
Without claiming to win everything in all segments, CAF, which has joined forces with Bombardier for the contract for the next renewal of the Ile-de-France RER B (an alliance from the “world before”), has promised Reichshoffen employees to saturate their factory. , if it was selected for this program expected in January 2021. A load plan hoped for at least eight years. Hence the preference given by the inter-union CGC-CGT-FO to the Basque manufacturer’s file. Other segments to develop in the eyes of the Spaniard: light trains wedged between TGV and TER, whether battery or hydrogen, and night trains, as England has launched.
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