German industrial group Siemens has come back with a weakened offer for part of the power-generation business of France's Alstom, which is also coveted by US giant General Electric, according to the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
But its new partner in the tilt for Alstom, Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was said to be sweetening its part of the bid, notably with an offer to take a 10 percent stake in the French conglomerate.
Siemens now wants to pay four billion euros ($5.4 billion) for Alstom's gas turbine activities and will not hand over its rail transportation division as part payment, at least not right away, the German report published in Monday's edition said.
If verified, that offer would be significantly less than the preliminary offer Siemens was said to have put on the table in April: a bid of 10.5 billion to 11 billion euros for Alstom's energy unit, with its train division in the mix.
Siemens on Sunday convened its board to formalise its offer. The company declined to make any comment to AFP on the newspaper report or what offer it was proposing.
Mitsubishi meanwhile was reported to want to buy a 10 percent stake in Alstom with a view to becoming a partner in building steam turbines, and in Alstom's wind and hydro-energy activities.
The Nikkei business daily partially confirmed that information, adding that Mitsubishi was trying to convince the French government to choose the German-Japanese bid over General Electric's one.
The US group has offered 12.6 billion euros ($17 billion) for the French conglomerate's wider energy group.
But the French government is opposed to any deal that would hollow out Alstom, which it views as a firm of national strategic importance.
Paris is particularly concerned about safeguarding jobs at the company -- one of France's biggest private sector employers, with about 18,000 staff nationwide. France is currently battling record unemployment and declining industrial competitiveness.
The German financial newspaper Handeslblatt estimated the overall cash offer by Siemens and Mitsubishi at nine billion euros. It, too, said Siemens had backed away from putting its rail transport activities on the table.