Biz Watch

CHRISTOPHE ENA/AP

Dehecq had government support, but not Aventis'

The Glory of France
Can France keep its businesses French? The government's attempt to create a national champion by engineering a 346 billion merger between drug firms Sanofi-Synthélabo and Aventis could end up backfiring. Hostile takeovers are rare and frowned upon in France, so Sanofi CEO Jean-François Dehecq's unsolicited offer for Franco-German Aventis last week raised eyebrows. Except in government:

Finance Minister Francis Mer openly endorses the takeover, while a source close to the deal says President Jacques Chirac, an old friend of Dehecq's, personally called Liliane Bettencourt, the biggest shareholder in L'Oréal —...

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