The battle for Alstom’s prized energy business heated up on Wednesday between General Electric and Siemens, as the board of the French ‘national jewel’ approved an offer by the U.S. giant and the German company upped its rival bid.

In a statement, Alstom said on Wednesday that its board was in favour of a 12.4-billion-euro ($17-billion) bid for its energy arm by GE, without closing the door to other proposals.

It said it acknowledged “unanimously the strategic and industrial merits of this (GE) offer” and had decided to set up a committee to review the bid by the end of May.

“It has, however, reserved the right to respond to unsolicited offers for its entire energy business and engage in discussions with bidders demonstrating a serious interest that could lead to a superior offer for Alstom,” the group added.

French Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg, blasted Alstom head Patrick Kron for not informing the government of takeover talks, accusing him of deliberately keeping him in the dark.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls took a more conciliatory tone Wednesday, telling France Inter radio that the view of the government had been taken into account over the future of what he has described as a company “of national strategic importance”.

Siemens, meanwhile, values Alstom’s energy business at 10.5 billion to 11 billion euro, and has offered to hand over part of its trains business to the French company in the deal. — AFP