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EU GE meets EU regulators over Alstom power unit deal

[BRUSSELS] General Electric met EU antitrust regulators on Thursday, hoping they will take a softer line on its 12.4-billion-euro (US$13.7 billion) bid for Alstom's energy unit.

The US conglomerate asked for the closed-door hearing after the European Commission said the deal, GE's biggest ever, would harm competition because it would leave just two gas turbine companies in Europe - GE and German rival Siemens .

Steve Bolze, president and CEO of GE Power & Water, GE's biggest industrial unit, is expected to counter the Commission's concerns with data showing that the merged company's market power would not be as dominant as painted by the regulator.

He is also likely to call for a broader assessment of the sector to take into account Chinese rivals, which the Commission has excluded from its review.

GE is expected to offer concessions in the coming days. It has said it would be willing to give up some intellectual property rights related to some of Alstom's assets but not anything that would affect lucrative service revenue streams.

GE's team at the hearing included its lawyer, Sharis Pozen, a former acting assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, who led the US enforcer's veto against AT&T's $39 billion bid for T-Mobile and opened a case against Apple's eBooks deals with five publishers.

Alstom Chief Executive Patrick Kron also attended the hearing, which kicked off at 0730 GMT and was due to end at around 1500 GMT.

Other participants included rivals Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, Toshiba Corp and Italian company Ansaldo. A source who attended the hearing said German competitor Siemens was not present.

Britain's Competition and Markets Authority sent its director in charge of mergers, Nelson Jung. The Commission's deputy director general for mergers, Carles Esteva Mosso, led the EU team.