Switzerland: Power Play

When the American Electric Power Co. last year asked for bids on one of history's biggest orders ($100 million-plus) for steam-turbine generators, U.S. turbine makers confidently sent in their estimates. Last month they got a big shock. Awarding the contract, American Electric bypassed the two U.S. Goliaths, General Electric and Westinghouse, chose a little-known Swiss-based David called Brown, Boveri & Co.

The Swiss firm will build at least two, and possibly four, mammoth 4,800-ton turbines, each able to generate an unprecedented 1,100,000 kw. to 1,300,000 kw. of power. The first is to...