Belgian businessman Baron Albert Frere has been given the go ahead by the European Commission to acquire a controlling stake in French Champagne house Taittinger.
Frere's CNP holding company will take over as majority owner of the company from the Taittinger family, which will nonetheless retain a minority stake in the eponymous company.
As well as its Champagne brand, Taittinger has extensive holdings in Loire valley and Saumur wines through its subsidiaries Ernest Irroy, Samazeuilh, Saint-Evremond and Bouvet-Ladubay) and in spirits. It also has a foothold in the hotel sector via the Envergure and Concorde groups, and in the luxury goods industry with Baccarat cristal and Annick Goutal perfumes.
The Commission was called in to rule on the proposed acquisiton mainly because of CNP's own wine holdings in Bordeaux Saint-Emilion, Sauternes and Pomerol, but also because of its perfume retail operation, Planet Parfum.
However, the competition authorities in Brussels ruled that there was already a high level of competition in the perfume business and that it would not be significantly diluted by the acquisition, especially as the perfume market in Belgium, where Planet Parfum is based, was relatively small.
As for the wine business, the two companies' holdings are in different parts of France, and the merger will not therefore have any significant impact on sales.