France passes new law to block foreign takeovers amid GE row

Kate McCann
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FRANCE’S economics minster announced a new law to block foreign corporate takeovers in the country yesterday, amid a growing row over the General Electric Alstom deal.

Arnaud Montebourg revealed powers for state approval of takeover deals, calling the policy a “choice of economic patriotism”.

But France may already have fallen foul of European law, as EU commissioner Michel Barnier warned the decision would be fully examined to make sure it does not amount to protectionism.

The French plans are in contrast to the UK, where politicians have been investigating the proposed takeover of Astrazeneca by its US pharmaceuticals rival Pfizer – yet are unable to block the deal in such a blunt manner.

Opposition leader Ed Miliband has proposed some new laws to intervene in takeovers, however.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said yesterday: “The French government is subject to the same European rules as every other member state. The scope for intervening in proposed mergers is limited to a narrow set of public interest grounds. This does not alter the measured and rational approach that the UK government is taking.”