The leader of the 3000-member strong militant protest group Farmers for Action (FFA) is mulling a rival takeover bid for Leicester-based Express Dairies, in an attempt to prevent the company falling into foreign hands.

David Handley reportedly saw financiers over the weekend to put together an offer that will rival the 35p-a-share bid thought to have been made by Danish co-operative Arla. He told the Daily Telegraph: "I'm not about to sit back and watch a great British company be sold off on the cheap to a European farmers cooperative.

"If Arla have got the foresight to see its potential, then it should be us who take advantage of it. The company is a gift at the value it is."

If his bid is successful, Handley and the FFA will turn the troubled company into cooperative owned by banks and farmers. It will continue to be run by its existing management team.

Handley claimed to be visiting shadow culture secretary Peter Ainsworth yesterday, to enlist his help in gaining political support for the bid, which supporters say is in line with the key objectives of the Government's recent policy blueprint for agriculture prepared by Sir Don Curry.