Lactalis, the French dairy company, now owns over half of its Italian dairy and juice maker Parmalat, as the EUR3.4bn takeover of the business edges closer.

Today (8 July) is the final day for shareholders in Parmalat to accept Lactalis's offer of EUR2.60 a share for the 71% of the company it did not already own.

By yesterday afternoon, Lactalis had managed to secure over 50% of the shares in Parmalat.

The French firm needs to secure 55% of Parmalat to spark a full takeover. Later today, Lactalis will publish the final amount of shares it owns in Parmalat.

Lactalis first acquired a stake in Parmalat in March, when it bought 11.42% of the business. Days later, the French firm upped its stake to 29%, prompting concern in some political and business circles in Italy that Parmalat would fall into foreign control.

Speculation then grew that an Italian national consortium of financial and industry groups could make a rival bid for Parmalat but an offer never emerged.

In late April, Lactalis launched its EUR3.4bn bid, viewed by some investors in Parmalat as too low. Parmalat's board turned down the offer but last month Lactalis, as the company's largest shareholder, was able to nominate candidates to the Italian firm's board.

Lactalis secured nine out of the 11 seats on the Parmalat board and all but made it certain that it would not have to increase its offer.