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Wendel's cordial intent

Jacques Chirac, France's president, might have described his country's relationship with Britain as ?l'amour violent? ? a turbulent love affair ? but London is the place to be nowadays if you're French.

That view is echoed by Jean-Bernard Lafonta, CEO of Wendel Investissement, who understands why 300,000 of his countrymen choose to live in the UK, once France's sworn enemy.

"The best French chefs are all coming over to London ? you have some excellent restaurants,? he says over lunch in the City. ?It is a very agreeable place for us French now.?

Lafonta joined Wendel two years ago from BNP Paribas. Marine-Wendel and CGIP had merged to form the new group which was switching from investing in listed stocks to private equity.

Wendel has some e3 billion of investments. It raised e400 million in October with a 10-year bond and, says Lafonta, is ready to make a further e900 million of investments, once targets are identified.

However, despite Lafonta's upbeat view of Perfidious Albion, there will always be a frisson in Anglo-French relations.

The two countries might have marked 100 years of the Entente Cordiale in 2004 but Chirac's state visit to London in November included a reception in the Waterloo Room of Windsor Castle.

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