Thales has made its choice. According to Reuters information, the French group has decided to sell its railway signaling activities to the Japanese Hitachi Rail and not to the Spanish CAF, the other candidate in the running. The operation should be announced in the coming days, assures the agency. A Thales spokesperson declined to comment.

The defense and security group launched last spring negotiations for the sale of its signaling activities, an area which weighs approximately % of its turnover. In addition to CAF and Hitachi, the Swiss Stadler Rail had shown signs of interest before exiting the process. The amount of the operation is estimated at 1.7 billion euros, a little more than what was expected (1.5 billion).

Refocusing on defense and aeronautics For Thales, this is to reassure some investors worried about too much diversity of the French group. It is indeed present in defense, civil aeronautics but also space and digital identity and security solutions, as well as transport.

The sale must allow Thales to refocus on its activities in the defense and aeronautics industries, while its rail signaling division does not have the stature of its rivals in the sector.

Hitachi’s choice can be explained by the complementarity of the two groups. In Europe, Thales is more oriented towards Germany, while the Japanese are more towards… France and Italy.

No obstruction of The State The French State, shareholder of the group, will not oppose this operation, even if this activity leaves the European fold. “The state has been fully aware of the process from the start and of the candidates. Hitachi is already very big in Europe, in particular in the United Kingdom and in Italy, and also provides signaling for the SNCF. There is no subject of acceptability ”, assures a person close to the file. longer term riskier. Finally, by ruling out the Iberian candidate, Thales is protecting the French manufacturer Alstom from a formidable competitor. Two years ago, CAF won an order for 10 Intercités trains from SNCF , which had aroused disappointment among the long-standing partner of the railway group.

Bank Lazard was leading the auction process for Thales. Hitachi was advised by Perella Weinberg Partners and Deutsche Bank.