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Alstom, Siemens confirm new merger concessions in rail antitrust tussle

Alstom, Siemens confirm new merger concessions in rail antitrust tussle
FILE PHOTO - The Siemens logo is seen on a building in Siemensstadt in Berlin, Germany, October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo Copyright Hannibal Hanschke(Reuters)
Copyright Hannibal Hanschke(Reuters)
By Reuters
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PARIS (Reuters) - Alstom and Siemens have offered new concessions to try to satisfy antitrust demands and get the green light for their plans to create a joint European rail champion, Alstom confirmed on Monday.

"There is, however, still no certainty that the content of this package will be sufficient to alleviate the concerns of the Commission," Alstom said in its statement.

The rail merger aims to create the world's second largest rail company -- with combined revenues of around 15 billion euros (£12.98 billion)-- but the deal has hit a snag with regulators.

People familiar with the matter said last week that the European Union competition watchdog would block the deal, with a decision likely on Feb. 6 ahead of the Feb. 18 deadline.

Germany's Siemens and France's Alstom have argued that their deal would help them be better equipped to compete with China's state-owned CRRC, but the EU has stressed its concerns lay with defending consumer interests rather than creating regional industrial powerhouses.

The combined revenues of the rail company would be roughly half the size of CRRC but double Canada's Bombardier.

To sweeten the deal, the two companies are now prepared to share Siemens' high-speed train technology for 10 years instead of five in Europe, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters last week.

European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told Reuters on Sunday her staff were reviewing last-minute changes filed by the two companies on Friday.

But she added that they had come "way, way over the usual deadline."

Asked if the door was still open for a possible agreement, Vestager said, "We're looking at what was handed over to us this Friday. This is the last push, if at all possible."

Competition agencies in Germany, Britain, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium have warned against the merger, saying the first set of concessions fell short.

But the French and German governments have argued that halting the deal would be a strategic error, and have thrown their weight behind the rail merger.

Alstom's shares fell 3.4 percent in Paris in early trading on Monday, while Siemens slipped 0.45 percent.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Sarah White; Editing by Keith Weir)

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