Gide, with a team comprising partners Laurent Godfroid, Stéphane Hautbourg, Benoit le Bret and counsel Ségolène Pelsy, advised Cofigeo on its acquisition of the ready-meals branch of the Agripole group (owner of the William Saurin assets).
This transaction is a significant development in the field of merger control. For the first time since the creation of the French Competition Authority in 2008, the French Minister for Economy and Finance applied his right to raise a case as set out in article L. 430-7-1 of the French Commercial Code, which gives him the power to adopt a decision on other grounds than those of competition law i.e. on grounds of general interest.
Facing near bankruptcy in early 2017 following a widespread accounting fraud scandal, William Saurin received financial help from the French State, and its acquisition was secured in the difficult context of factories having stopped production. After the acquisition of the cured meats division by Coorperl Arc Atlantique, the French commercial court approved Cofigeo as the acquirer of the ready-meals branch in October 2017.
On 14 June 2018, the French Competition Authority cleared the merger subject to the sale by Cofigeo of a brand and a production site. On the same day, the French Minister for Economy and Finance made public his intention to review the transaction on general interest grounds, such as preserving jobs and industrial development.
Upon the expiry of the 25 days’ period provided by the French Commercial Code, the French Minister for Economy and Finance confirmed today his intention and adopted an authorisation decision that supersedes that of the French Competition Authority, consequently rendering its injunctions inapplicable.