Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Henri Poupart-Lafarge : “The French sites of Asltom remain the technological heart of the group” – The Echoes

One year after the focus on the transport activity, how is Alstom ?

Our half-year results, as well as our command recent, are evidence of the good health of the group. We are fortunate to be positioned on markets where the fundamentals are very positive, because of the high demand of transportation in the world. This created opportunities that we have managed to enter this year, being closer to our customers. We remain also the leader in terms of technology, as demonstrated by our launch a few weeks ago, the first train of the fuel cell, which is both clean and economic, and which attracts the interest of many customers. The financial balance sheet, finally, has been reorganized, and we now have a cash positive. It is a beautiful first anniversary.

The international business is thriving, but in France, by contrast, the government had to fly to the rescue of the site of Belfort…

I’m not going to redo the story of Belfort. In France, The railway is truly a national treasure. There are still a few years, the TGV was even included on the passports ! It is therefore legitimate that this leads to special attention of the government. Rail transport in France goes through a difficult period. It is for this reason that it is necessary to re-start. Our French sites suffer from a number of underlying trends : freight traffic by rail, which is at a really low point, the market for regional trains which has entered into a phase less dynamic… I am confident we will continue to adapt.

Where are the plans, after the recent order by the SNCF and the State, and with the prospect now almost certain to get in partnership with Bombardier, the contract of the RER New generation ?

Overall, we remain at the load levels relatively low. The command of the RER NG remains to be confirmed, and the first trains will not be transmitted until 2021. The important thing is to have prospects and the announcements made after Belfort gave a certain visibility to our French sites. It’s also important not to forget that they work more than 40% to the export : the French sites are benefiting from our success abroad, and this proportion will increase in the future to compensate for this relative weakness in the order backlog in France.

Why not do it more systematically ? The French factories have a problem of competitiveness compared to other european sites ?

Some of the sites in Europe do, indeed, have cost structures that are different, but you have to think project by project, by function of expenses, of skills. The labour costs are lower in Poland than in France, I’m not going to learn it. But the French sites have other advantages, of know-how. They remain the technological heart of the group. We decide on a case-by-case basis, taking into account contexts that are legal, such as the Buy american act in the United States, which requires 95% of local production, and needs of closeness with the customer. The economic considerations and our desire to balance the workloads of our sites are also. In this context, we use the French factories as much as we can.

A recent parliamentary report on the railway accuses Alstom to monopolize the public order…

This report is interesting and I read it end-to-end this weekend. I find it a pity that the few pages devoted to Alstom to be inaccurate. The French market is much more open than what is being said. There are high-speed trains Siemens, which circulate in France, Bombardier has built in ten years a nice share of the market, Caf has won orders tram… We have a large market share, but as a lot of manufacturers national on their market of origin. The authors also accuse of having pushed the ” TGV ” in France, to the detriment of the rest of the network… It is not necessary to confuse cause and effect : if there is no train running at 250 km/hour in France, it is that there are no pathways for the circulate. This arbitration has been made there has almost thirty years by the State, not by Alstom. A pity that the authors have not sought to meet with us to understand our analysis.

We loaned you these last few weeks the desire to take control of the activity of rail signalling Thales…

Yes, the systems, and in particular to signaling, are part of our major strategic axes. We’re reinforced with the acquisition of GE’s Signaling last year, which gives us entire satisfaction, and we have never hidden that we wanted to continue to develop in this activity. Our balance sheet allows us to consider acquisitions. That there is a strategic analysis internal or external to Alstom, which detail the most and the least of such-and-such a combination, it is part of business life. But Thales is not seller, therefore, there is no subject, and it is necessary to avoid creating drama out of nothing.

do you Have other targets ?

Our strategy is first and foremost a strategy of organic growth. We do not have a ” hole in the racket “, on the technological or geographical, that should be absolutely filled by an acquisition. However, we will seize the opportunities that may be present to accelerate our development.

interview by Lionel Steinmann and François Vidal


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