Blog: Olly WehringTaittinger best in French hands

Olly Wehring | 6 June 2006

Champagne corks were popping last week after it was announced that one of the most famous names in the region was to remain in family hands.

Last week, French bank Crédit Agricole finally bought Taittinger after a long-running and closely fought auction in a deal worth around EUR660m (US$846m). The bank was understood to have teamed up with Taittinger family members including Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, the firm’s deputy managing director and grandson of the company’s founder.

Crédit Agricole’s bid for Taittinger trumped seven other offers, including one from India’s UB Group. The Indian press bemoaned France’s “economic patriotism” for scuppering the UB bid, while a company spokesperson labelled the winning bid as “crazy”.

True, France has, let’s say, closely protected its companies from foreign predators. Think back to last year when the French government called for drinks and dairy group Danone to remain in French hands after rumours that PepsiCo was to table a hostile bid.

However, in the case of Taittinger, union officials were right to voice their concern over a successful UB bid. It had little to do with nationality but more to do with the Indian group’s complete lack of experience overseas, let alone in Champagne. True, the company has built a robust brewing and spirits empire in India but aside from a distillery in Nepal, UB does not have a presence abroad and it would have been a gamble to say the least for it to own the world’s sixth-largest Champagne house as its first significant overseas asset.


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