French press indignant at possible Danone sale

20th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 20 (AFP) - French press comment on rumours that PepsiCo wants to swallow Danone mixed indignation and angst on Wednesday at the thought that the dairy group, a household name here, might end up in the grasp of US interests.

PARIS, July 20 (AFP) - French press comment on rumours that PepsiCo wants to swallow Danone mixed indignation and angst on Wednesday at the thought that the dairy group, a household name here, might end up in the grasp of US interests.

A US takeover would add insult to the injury of seeing a US cyclist, Lance Armstrong, win the Tour de France cycle race year after year, one paper suggested amid national chagrin at losing the 2012 Olympic Games to London.

But commentators also highlighted implications of such a takeover for the so-called French social model, and one newspaper said that France had to face contradictions in the way it treated business.

"Not only is there every chance that an American will sweep up the Tour de France for the seventh time, but information is growing that another American might absorb one of the jewels in the CAC 40, one of the pillars supporting French food and agriculture: the group Danone," said the Nice Matin, a paper published in the south of the country.

All papers reflected concerns among the French public about a rumoured bid.

"We are all behind Danone," declared the L'Est Republicain. "To defend the French agrofood group that PepsiCo wants to swallow."

The paper called on politicians, trade unionists and farm workers to "refuse unanimously the takeover scenario", while accepting that a lack of competitiveness sometimes forced French companies to "confront their competitors with lead in their boots".

In the Journal de la Haute-Marne, a region in the east of France, the paper lamented a clash between the "French social model" with the "hyper-liberalism" of the United States.

This argument echoes similar concerns evoked by the successful "no" campaign during the French referendum against the European constitution this year.

Reflecting concerns about French identity and influence in a globalised world, a vote against the EU treaty was billed as a defence of a so-called European social model and rejection of what many condemned as Anglo-Saxon liberalism, or market-driven policies.

In the national press, the centre-right Le Figaro said that the threat to Danone "revives a bad memory, the disappearance of the body and soul of Pechiney, the jewel of the French aluminium industry", a reference to the acquisition in 2003 of Pechiney by Canadian group Alcan.

And recollections of the deal are unlikely "to calm the apprehensions in France about the future of Danone", said daily financial paper Les Echos.

Les Echos, referring implicitly to concern that PepsiCo might cut jobs to raise efficiency, said that French antagonism arose from anxiety about employment policy and possible changes to French consumer habits.

Le Figaro was struck by a contradiction in the reaction of the French political class, as socialists and trade unionists united in their opposition to a foreign takeover of Danone.

Referring to recent political objections to a restructuring plan by Danone involving plant closures in France, the paper commented: "It is curious to see that the same people, on the left and on the right, who called at one time for a boycott of Danone products to hit the company, now seek to head the wave in defence of its independence.

The paper continued that these were "the same people who, on the one hand condemn outrageous profits made by companies and on the other obstruct a takeover by more dynamic foreign competitors.

"The case of Danone demonstrates this permanent contradiction which has hold of the country, a contradiction which consists on one hand in sharing in the pride of counting some of the great names of French industry among leading world companies. But on the other, of condemning anything by these same companies intended to make them stronger, more responsive and more profitable."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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