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France's Lactalis bids for Italy's Parmalat as Sarkozy Berlusconi meet

media Soon to be Number One? A Parmalat factory near Parma Reuters/Max Rossi

French company Lactalis has launched a takeover bid for troubled Italian food giant Parmalat on the day a meeting between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is expected to discuss France’s incursions into the Italian economy. Lactalis already controls 29 per cent of Parmalat’s shares, prompting Berlusconi’s government to try to fend off a buyout.

With an annual turnover of 14 billion euros, the company would become the world leader in the dairy sector, Lactalis said Tuesday.

The bid will total 3,375 billion euros, 2.60 euros a share.

Dossier: Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution

The company says the move is in response to the Italian government decision to give Parmalat permission to put off its annual general meeting to avoid a takeover there.

French inroads into Italian companies are expected to be raised at Tuesday’s meeting between Sarkozy and Berlusconi.

The main subject of the meeting is set to be Italy’s granting of temporary residency rights to over 20,000 Tunisians who wish to obtain residency in France and the rest of Europe.

The row prompted France to suggest the suspension of the Schengen accord granting free movement within most of the European Union (EU).

Consensus now seems to have been reached that the accord should be adapted but not scrapped. French media report that the two countries will propose an EU loan of 10 billion euros to southern Mediterranean countries to boost their economies and reduce emigration.

France’s Socialist opposition on Tuesday slammed the two leaders.

The party’s number two, Harlem Désir, dubbed them “the shame of Europe” for the row, which saw a train carrying migrants blocked at the Franco-Italian border.

Another party leader, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, told Canal+ television that France should take in the migrants “temporarily” and accused Sarkozy of exploiting the issue for electoral purposes ahead of next year’s presidential election.

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