This week’s flotation of 58% of heavy engineering group Alstom by GEC and France’s Alcatel makes available shares in a £4.29bn company with global interests in transport, power generation, transmission and distribution.
Alstom (formerly GEC Alsthom) will make Virgin Railways’ tilting trains for the West Coast main line. It also builds trains for Eurostar, the Paris Metro and France’s TGV service.
The company claims to be the world’s second largest generator and transmitter of electricity. Alstom manufactures electrical equipment and diesel engines in Rugby also home to its UK hydropower operation and Stafford. It makes trains at Metro-Cammell in Birmingham.
Alstom’s 1997 98 turnover was £9.51bn and it employs over 110,000 people in more than 60 countries. Around 22,500 are based in the UK.
The UK interests are divided into four main sectors: energy (with 6,500 employees), power transmission and distribution (3,500), transport (8,000) and industrial products (3,000). Ceglec employs another 500.
The company’s headquarters is in France and its shares are listed in Paris, London and New York. Britain’s decision to hold off joining the euro is believed to have prompted the decision to site Alstom’s main listing on the Paris Bourse.
Around 30% of the shares went to French investors, with 17% going to British shareholders. Fewer than 15% went to Americans, who were apparently deterred by the Asian financial crisis. Alstom is heavily involved in power generation projects in Asia, including the Three Gorges dam in China, for which it is supplying eight hydroelectric turbines.
Because the flotation was three times oversubscribed, GEC’s and Alcatel’s stakes have been cut to 21%, rather than the 24% maximum they had expected. The French government may reduce its stake in future.