Alsthom was founded in 1928 from the merger of French heavy engineering interests of the Thomson-Houston Electric Company (then part of General Electric) – the Compagnie française pour l'exploitation des procédés Thomson Houston (or Compagnie Française Thomson Houston, CFTH) and Société Alsacienne de Constructions Mécaniques, with the first factory in Belfort. In 1932, Alsthom expanded into transportation by acquiring
Constructions Electriques de France, Tarbes, a manufacturer of electric locomotives as well as electrical and hydraulic equipment.
In 1969, Compagnie Générale d'Electricité (CGE) became the majority shareholder of Alsthom. In 1976, Alsthom merged with Chantiers de l'Atlantique, becoming Alsthom Atlantique. Thus, the business expanded into marine. The next year, it constructed the first 1300 MW generator set for the Paluel power station, setting a world record with an output of 1500 MW.
In 1978, Alsthom delivered its first TGV to SNCF. The TGV went on to break world rail speed records in 1981 (at 380 kilometres per hour (240 mph)) and in 1990 (at 515.3 kilometres per hour (320.2 mph)). It also set the world endurance record for high-speed train lines in 2001, travelling the 1,067.2 kilometres (663.1 mi) from Calais to Marseille in 3 hours and 29 minutes. In 1986, Alsthom Belfort received an order from EDF for the largest gas turbine in the world (212 MW).
In 1988–89, holding company CGEE Alsthom acquired ACEC Energie (hydroturbines and electrical equipment for the nuclear industry) and ACEC Automatisme (automation) from the dissolution of Belgian electrical engineering company ACEC SA. Alsthom acquired 100% of ACEC's transport division, renaming it ACEC Transport.
GEC Alsthom (1989–1998)
In 1989 GEC Alsthom was formed from a 50–50 merger of the power and transport activities of Compagnie Générale d'Electricité (CGE) subsidiary Alstom and the Powers System Division of the British General Electric Company plc, with the intent to allow Alsthom to export outside France. In May 1989 the rail vehicle manufacturer Metro-Cammell was acquired.
In 1994 GEC Alsthom acquired the rail vehicle manufacturer Linke-Hofmann-Busch from Salzgitter AG. In 1995, the company acquired the remaining shares in the steam turbine manufacturer
MAN Energie. In early 1998, GEC Alsthom acquired the electrical contractor Cegelec, renaming it Alstom Power Conversion.
In 1998 GEC-Alsthom bought Italian firm SASIB SpA's rail signalling subsidiary Sasib Railways, which included the former General Railway Signal (USA).
In June 1998 GEC Alsthom was listed on the Paris Stock Exchange; GEC and Alcatel sold off part of their stakes in the capital (23.6% each) and the company was renamed Alstom.
In 1999 Alstom's energy division merged with ABB in a 50–50 joint company known as ABB Alstom Power. Alstom also bought Canada's Télécité, a passenger information and security solutions company, and sold its heavy-duty gas turbine business to General Electric. The next year, it bought out ABB's share in ABB Alstom Power.
In 2000 Alstom sold its diesel engine businesses (Ruston, Paxman, and Mirrlees Blackstone) to MAN Group. It also acquired a 51% stake in Fiat Ferroviaria, the Italian rail manufacturer and world leader in tilting technology. In April 2003, Alstom sold its industrial turbine business to Siemens for €1.1 billion.
By 2003 Alstom was facing a financial crisis due to poor sales and over $5 billion of debt liabilities, with the potential to force the liquidation of the company. The crisis was in part due to $4 billion in costs from a design flaw in the turbines from the 2000 ABB Group acquisition, and from the collapse of customer Renaissance Cruises, and a downturn in the marine market. Alstom's share price had dropped 90% over two years. European competition commission law required Alstom to sell several of its subsidiaries, including its shipbuilding and electrical transmission assets, when it accepted a €3.2 billion rescue plan involving the French state.
In 2004 the French state took a 21% stake in Alstom and received an EU-approved French government bailout worth €2.5 billion. The company sold its electrical transmission and distribution ("grid") activities to Areva, the diesel locomotive manufacturer Meinfesa to Vossloh AG, and Alstom Power Rentals to APR LLC. Alstom also delivered the Mermaid propulsion units (4 × 21.5 MW), Queen Mary 2, the world's largest ocean liner, to Cunard during 2004.
In 2005 the former Metro-Cammell rail vehicle works in Washwood Heath, Birmingham were closed.
In 2006 Alstom sold its Marine Division to the Norwegian group Aker Yards, with a commitment to retain 25% of the shares until 2010. It also sold Alstom Power Conversion, which became Converteam, in a leveraged buy-out deal funded by Barclays Private Equity France SAS. In June, Bouygues group acquired the French government's 21% holding for €2 billion. Later in the year, Bouygues increased its shareholding to 24%.
Alstom-Ecotècnia wind turbines in Spain
In 2007 TGV Est set the world speed record for rail vehicles of 574.8 kilometres per hour (357.2 mph). In March, Alstom acquired Power Systems Manufacturing LLC (Florida, USA) a manufacturer of gas turbine components from Calpine Corporation for $242 million. In June, Alstom acquired the Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Ecotècnia, renamed as Alstom Ecotècnia (since 2010 Alstom Wind). The company also adopted a new graphic chart (logo, corporate identity) using "alstom" as its trading name, reserving "Alstom SA" for legal documents.
In 2009 Alstom acquired 25% of Russia's Transmashholding.
In 2010 Alstom re-acquired the electric power transmission division of Areva SA, which had previously been sold in 2004; the re-acquisition became a new operating division named "Alstom Grid". The company also opened a wind turbine assembly facility in Amarillo, Texas; a turbine manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee; and a new hydropower manufacturing facility in China. Investments underlined Alstom's clean power strategy, focused on providing a wide range of power generation capabilities, highly efficient technology and carbon capture and storage technology, led by (then) Alstom Power President, Philippe Joubert.
In 2011 Alstom and the Iraqi government signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the construction of a new high-speed rail line between Baghdad and Basra.
In 2012 Alstom opened construction of factories at Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, Canada (passenger rail vehicles). After a consortium of Alstom (Alstom Wind), EDF, and Dong Energy was awarded three major French offshore wind farm contracts, the company initiated construction of factories at Cherbourg (turbine blades in association with LM Power, also wind turbine towers) and Saint-Nazaire (Nacelles and generators). Also in 2012 the company forms a joint venture with RusHydro to manufacture hydropower equipment for small and medium power hydropower plants. (up to about 100MW.)
In November 2013 Alstom announced it planned to raise €1 to €2 billion through sale of some non-core assets, plus the possible sale of a stake in Alstom Transport, and cut 1300 jobs. In 2014, Alstom sold its steam auxiliary components activities (air preheaters and gas-gas heaters for thermal power, other industrial heat transfer equipment, and grinding mills) to
Triton Partners for €730 million.
In November 2014 Alstom was awarded a $429.4 million contract to modernise 85 trains for the Mexico City metro system.
Acquisition by General Electric
On 24 April 2014 it was reported that the U.S. conglomerate General Electric (GE) was in talks to acquire Alstom for $13 billion, and claimed the deal had the support of 29%-shareholder Bouygues; as a result, the company's share price rose 18% in one day. Neither GE nor Alstom confirmed the report. On 27 April Le Figaro reported that an alternative offer of a cash plus asset swap had been made by Siemens. The bid was reported to involve Siemens acquiring Alstom's power business in exchange for part of its rail transport arm, plus a cash offer as good as GE's and various job guarantees. The Siemens deal was reported as being promoted by French economic minister Arnaud Montebourg. However, the Siemens' and Alstom's companies' product overlap was greater, representing a greater jobs risk, and had potential issues with European competition regulators. Siemens' initial offer was characterised as "defensive" and was met with skepticism from investors and analysts.
On 29 April Reuters reported that the board of Alstom had accepted a €10 billion bid from GE for its energy operations; a letter from GE executive Jeffrey R. Immelt to President François Hollande published in Les Echos Immelt gave assurances about continued investment in Alstom's French activities, on security relating to Alstom's involvement in the French civil nuclear sector, and on job commitments made by Alstom Wind regarding its new factories, whilst making Alstom's wind activities available for sale to French investors. On 30 April, Alstom confirmed an offer had been received for its power and grid divisions (representing an equity value of €12.35 billion, €11.4 billion enterprise value) and was under review with key interests including the French state. On 30 April, GE confirmed an offer had been made, with a value of $16.9 billion, representing a $13.5 billion enterprise value plus $3.4 billion cash. On 5 May, General Electric posted an offer to buy one fourth of the shares in Alstom's Indian power and distribution companies – Alstom T&D India and Alstom India – at 261.25 and 382.20 rupees a share (value US$278 million and $111 million respectively) subject to its bid for Alstom SA being successful.
On 5 May 2014 the French government stated it did not back GE's bid, citing concerns on the potential future of Alstom's rail transport business as a smaller separate entity, suggesting that GE transfer its own rail division to Alstom; other concerns were retaining national technological independence in the civil nuclear field, and French jobs. On 14 May, France issued a decree (Décret n° 2014-479 du 14 mai 2014.[note 1]), nicknamed "décret Alstom", extending to power of the state to veto the takeover of "strategic interests" into areas of energy supply, water, transport, telecoms and public health. Both the French employer organisation MEDEF (through its president Pierre Gattaz (wiki:fr)) and the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services (Michel Barnier) responded negatively to the decree.
On 16 June Siemens and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) submitted a competing proposal in which Siemens would acquire Alstom's gas turbine activities for €3.9 billion and MHI would form joint ventures with Alstom, acquiring 40, 20 and 20% stakes in Alstom's steam and nuclear, electrical grid, and hydroelectric businesses respectively, for €3.1 billion. The proposal included an additional offer to acquire a further 10% stake from shareholder Bouygues and the option to form a joint venture in rail transport. On 19 June, GE revised its bid, valuing the assets at the same price, but with a lower cash transaction value. The revised bid proposed to form a 50:50 joint venture combining GE's and Alstom's renewable and electric grid business, and a 50:50 joint venture in Alstom's steam turbine and nuclear power business. GE also announced a memorandum of understanding between the two firms in the rail transport sector, where GE would sell its rail signalling business to Alstom. On 20 June, Siemens and MHI modified their offer, with MHI increasing its stake in Alstom's steam, hydro, and grid businesses to 40% in all three (total €3.9 billion), and with Siemens increasing its offer by €400 million to €4.3 billion. Subsequently, Economy minister Arnaud Montebourg stated he would block both bids, but stated the French government was now backing the GE offer, and had given GE additional specifications regarding commitments and guarantees. It also announced it intended to take two thirds of Bouygues' shareholding (20%). The Alstom board met the next day and backed GE's revised bid. On 22 June, the French state agreed terms with Bouygues, enabling the purchase of part of their shareholding in Alstom, taking a 20% stake in Alstom from Bouygues before payment, with an agreement to buy the shares at a 2–5% discount on a value of a minimum of ≈€35 per share.[note 2] Analysts commented Bouygues would be under pressure to make a deal with the state in order to gain positive political capital due to regulation issues the company was facing in the French telecoms sector.
Initially the acquisition deal was expected to be finalised by early 2015. In early 2015 the EU Competition Commission began an examination process of the deal. Both European Union and United States competition regulators approved the deal by September 2015, subject to the divestiture of Alstom's large and very large gas turbine (GT26 and GT36 models) manufacturing and service business; and its GE7FA gas turbine aftermarket parts subsidiary business, Power Systems Mfg. LLC (PSM), to another company, named as Ansaldo of Italy, (see Ansaldo Energia).
The sale of the company's Energy division to GE was finalised 2 November 2015 – the final valuation being €12.4 billion, of which €9.7 billion was transferred to Alstom, the remainder being reinvested by Alstom in GE/Alstom joint ventures, plus other corrections. Following the acquisition, the remainder of the Alstom group including GE Signalling acquired for an amount of approximately €700 million, refocused entirely on Rail transport activities. The acquired businesses were to be reorganised together with GE's existing power generation business (GE Power & Water) as GE Power, headquartered in Schenectady, NY, USA.
Alstom’s acquisition by GE is widely
seen as ill-conceived, and GE’s former CEO, John Flannery, admitted that it greatly overpaid for Alstom.
With the acquisition of Alstom, GE accrued $17.3bn of goodwill, consisting of Alstom’s negative book value of $7.2bn at the time of acquisition and the purchase price of $10.1bn. In October 2018, GE took a write-off of $23bn from the value of its power industry division, most of it attributed to the hollow goodwill of Alstom.
2014 Bribery charges and fines
In late 2014 Alstom was fined $772 million by the U.S. Justice Department, and admitted guilt (under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) in relation to bribes paid to obtain contracts in various countries.
In mid 2014 Alstom Network UK was charged by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in relation to corruption offences alleged to have been committed when obtaining transportation contracts in India, Poland and Tunisia, covered under sections 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and Criminal Law Act 1977. Further charges were brought in late 2014 by the SFO in relation to corrupt practices used to obtain energy contracts in Lithuania. Additional charges relating to contracts for the Budapest Metro in Hungary were added in April 2015.
In November 2015 Alstom was awarded a contract from the Indian Railways to construct an electric locomotive factory in Madhepura (Bihar), with an initial order of 800 twin section 9MW locomotives for use on the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor, value ₹190 billion (about 2.9 billion USD). The factory was to be a joint venture with the Ministry of Railways (26%) at a cost of ₹ 13 billion. (about 200million USD)
By late 2015 Alstom had increased its shareholding in Transmashholding by 8% from 25 to 33% for €54 million.
In September 2015, it was announced that Amtrak would award Alstom a contract for $2.5 billion for the next generation high-speed train sets for the Northeast Corridor. This would result in the creation of 750 jobs across upstate New York with 400 direct manufacturing jobs at Alstom. The order for 28 trains was officially confirmed in August 2016 by Amtrak.
In March 2016 a joint venture of Alstom and Gibela began construction of a new 60,000 square metres (650,000 sq ft) train building factory in
Dunnotar nr. Johannesburg, (South Africa). Initial orders for the factory included 580 X'Trapolis Mega passenger trains for PRASA – a €4 billion contract awarded in 2013.
In September 2016 Alstom announced it was to cease locomotive manufacturing at its Belfort (France) site by 2018 due to low orders, with remaining production transferred to Reichshoffen (Alsace). However, in early October 2016 the French state placed an order of about €650 million for 15 TGV Euroduplex trains; an order for 20 locomotives; plus an order for 30 intercity trains to be built at Reichshoffen. Together the orders were sufficient to prevent the plant closing in the short to medium term.
In June 2017 Alstom opened the UK's largest train modernisation facility in Halebank, on the border of Liverpool.
2018 bribery charges
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In 2018, Alstom or its employees were found guilty on several counts of bribery.