The European Commission has given French company Soprol the green light to acquire Lesieur, the edible oils offshoot of French company Céréol.
According to the Commission, the deal does not give rise to competition concerns because Céréol, which is Lesieur's sole owner, already has a controlling interest in Saipol.
Céréol is part of the world's largest oilseed processor US company Bunge, which claimed it wanted to sell most of the stake in Lesieur when it bought Céréol in 2002.
The agreement, given the all clear this week, follows a contract concluded in November last year between Bunge/Céréol and Sofiprotéol/Soprol to reinforce their partnership in France in the oilseed processing and marketing of vegetable oils sectors.
Lesieur has a significant share of the French retail market for packaged oils, while Saipol has a strong upstream presence in the French edible oils industry (pressing, refining).
According to the Commission, the deal, notified in December 2002, will not create a dominant position. First, the acquisition will not have much impact on the current market situation because Céréol already has partial control over Saipol (33.34 per cent), which accounts for the bulk of Soprol's activities in the edible oils sector.
The Commission also concluded that the degree of vertical integration between the upstream activities of Saipol and those of Lesieur in bottling and marketing is already very significant and that there is no risk of market foreclosure. This is because crude or refined oil, writes the Commission, is a commodity listed on international markets which can be easily accessed by any competitors.
In a statement this week Bunge said that it "will bring its worldwide leadership in this sector of activity and shall take an active role in the partnership, within the framework of a joint control."
Lesieur had sales of €500 million in 2001.