) is straining relations with Germany. Under an agreement reached on May 17 between French officials and the European Union's antitrust chief, Mario Monti, the French government would up its stake in Alstom to 31.5% as part of a complex debt-for-equity swap and capital increase. That would give Alstom enough breathing room to hold onto its gas turbine business, which Germany's Siemens (SI
) has been eager to acquire to cement its position as Europe's No. 1 producer of power equipment.
Terms of the agreement could still be changed. But, coming less than a month after France angered the Germans by arranging a takeover of Franco-German pharmaceutical group Aventis (AVE
) by French drug company Sanofi-Synthelabo (SNY
), the Alstom rescue is casting a pall over a June 1 meeting called by French and German leaders to discuss cooperation in creating European industrial champions. EDITED BY Edited by Rose Brady