The Associated Press

Nuclear and electric power company Areva SA said Monday that it will enter exclusive negotiations with fellow French companies Alstom SA and Schneider Electric SA for the sale of its power transmission and distribution business, rejecting separate bids from General Electric Co. and Japan's Toshiba Corp.

Paris-based Areva said all three bids were similar in value and about four times the price Areva had paid to purchase the unit five years ago. The bid from Alstom and Schneider values the power grid unit at about 4.09 billion euros ($6.15 billion).

The bid includes a commitment to maintain all European sites for three years and not lay off any workers except through voluntary termination. Alstom and Schneider also have said they would offer all European employees similar jobs in the same geographic area without a pay cut or loss of seniority.

Schneider makes equipment for electricity infrastructure and transmission. Alstom makes power-generation equipment and train systems.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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