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Company merger: GE shifts wind focus to France with Pecresse appointment

Since GE first made overtures to Alstom about a possible takeover deal last year, little has been revealed about what the US company plans to do with the business. This is especially true of the wind division, where the two companies cross over in products and market presence.

The deal was approved in early September by the US Department of Justice and the European Commission, and is likely to be sealed in the coming weeks barring certain formalities, such as the divestment of Alstom's heavy-duty gas turbine business to Italian firm Ansaldo.

As a result, Alstom's wind business will be subsumed into GE. In terms of wind, a new division will be created called GE Renewables. Both Alstom and GE confirmed it would be headed by current president of Alstom Renewable Power, Jerome Pecresse. A GE spokesman said the new division would include Alstom's onshore and offshore wind, tidal and hydro businesses. In what could be seen as a symbolic move, GE Renewables will be based in Paris.

"What we've worked to do is create a new GE business called GE Renewable Energy. It will be a 'tier-1' business that will report directly to Jeff Immelt," a GE spokesman said. "Pecresse will head that. In that will be all assets, including offshore and onshore wind." Asked how this would affect GE's current vice-president of renewables Anne McEntee, he said: "McEntee will continue to head onshore and report to Pecresse."


There are still questions surrounding the deal that are unlikely to be answered before it is completed. The responsibility for offshore is expected to remain with those currently running it in France, and onshore will come under McEntee in the US. There is considerable overlap here with Alstom Wind.

One example of this is in the turbine range. Both Alstom and GE have targeted the low wind sector, notably with the ECO-122 and the GE2.5-120. There have been rumours GE wants to push its own machines into Alstom turbine deals that are in the pipeline.

In Brazil, both GE and Alstom have invested heavily in manufacturing and servicing in order to be on the preferred supplier list with national development bank BNDES. Deals include a 1.2GW supply agreement with Alstom, while GE passed the 1GW installation milestone last year.

Other conflicts include Europe. In recent years GE has made a determined effort to break into the German market. However, Alstom launched a business unit for its wind division there last year, despite the fact the GE deal had been agreed between the two companies.

Research & development

There are also question marks over Alstom's facilities for onshore outside France. This includes Alstom Wind's research and development centre in Barcelona, Spain. The office was formerly the base of Ecotecnia prior to its acquisition by Alstom in 2007.

But there are areas where the companies could combine their research, according Philip Totaro, founder of Totaro Associates. These include power-plant controls for energy output optimisation, predictive maintenance scheduling, blade materials development and energy storage integration.

There is also the possibility GE could sell off some of the Alstom Wind intellectual property. Totaro said: "We think Alstom has technology which is valuable on drivetrain vibration damping, as well as their PureTorque kingpin design, which is actively being considered by other OEMs."

Both GE and Alstom were unable to answer questions over how any overlap between the two companies would be resolved. Once the deal has gone through, GE said it would be able to look at how it could "rationalise" the portfolio.

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