German industrial giant Siemens says it is ready to discuss strategic opportunities with French engineering group Alstom after reports it is considering a takeover offer.
"Siemens has submitted a letter to the board of Alstom to signal its willingness to discuss future strategic opportunities," the company said in a statement on Sunday, adding that it would make no further comment at this time.
Siemens made the announcement just as Alstom is being pursued by US giant General Electric, and a day after a source close to the matter said the German company was planning a rival bid.
GE's chief executive Jeffrey Immelt is due in Paris later Sunday for talks with senior French government officials about its potential offer for Alstom, a highly politically sensitive symbol of engineering prowess in France and a key exporter.
The company is facing a financial crunch and its shares have dropped sharply in the last year.
Although the French state has not held a stake in Alstom since 2006, Immelt is due to hold talks with Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg and Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Sunday, according to several sources.
France's government wants to obtain guarantees on "jobs, the location of activities and energy independence", said President Francois Hollande's office.
When Alstom was on the brink of collapse in 2003-2004, the French state strongly opposed a takeover by Siemens.
Alstom suspends shares until Wednesday
French engineering group Alstom says its shares will remain suspended from trading until Wednesday as it mulls its strategy amid rumours it is being pursued by General Electric and Germany's Siemens.
"Alstom continues and deepens its strategic reflection and will make a further announcement no later than Wednesday 30 April morning," the company said in a statement on Sunday.
It added that it "has requested that the trading of its shares remains suspended" on Paris' stock exchange in the meantime.
The news follows an announcement by Siemens earlier on Sunday saying it was ready to discuss strategic opportunities with Alstom.
"Siemens has submitted a letter to the board of Alstom to signal its willingness to discuss future strategic opportunities," the company said in a statement, adding that it would make no further comment.