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Battle royal verges on full-scale war


Michel Pébéreau

BNP Paribas' e2.2 billion successful bid for the French government's remaining 10.9% stake in Crédit Lyonnais has set up a battle for control of the former state-run bank.

By bidding so aggressively, Michel Pébéreau has shown the world that he's in fighting mode. He's not the only one.

Crédit Agricole and Société Générale are also interested in winning Credit Lyonnais' hand. Indeed, the reason for the flotation of Crédit Agricole - which is the central bank for a network of regional branches - was to give it an acquisition currency. The question now is whose currency will prove most acceptable to Crédit Lyonnais shareholders when the bidding starts in earnest next year.

Crédit Agricole was the favourite to win the stake that would have given it a 20% share of Crédit Lyonnais and a significant advantage in the race to become its owner but it slipped up and bid too low, not realizing the strength of its competitor's hand. "The most likely outcome is a takeover battle for Crédit Lyonnais," says Romain Burnand, JPMorgan's French banks analyst.

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