Lactalis today (8 July) claimed it had become the world's largest maker of dairy products after the French company sealed the takeover of Italian rival Parmalat.

After the deadline for Lactalis's EUR3.4bn (US$4.8bn) offer for Parmalat passed this afternoon, the company said it had secured 83.3% of the business.

With the takeover of Parmalat, Lactalis has an estimated turnover of EUR15bn and has become the "worldwide leader in dairy products", it said.

Lactalis president Emmanuel Besnier said the deal was a "very important step" for the family-owned company. The acquisition, he said, would expand Lactalis's business by 50%.

Besnier added: "Lactalis Group is thus becoming more and more international and diversified. Parmalat and Lactalis will both be able to benefit from the business complementarity of both their international organisation and brands and products portfolio, in order to carry on in their growth process."

The announcement brought an end to what had been seen in some quarters as a controversial pursuit of Parmalat.

Lactalis first acquired a stake in Parmalat in March when it bought 11.42% of the business. Days later, the French firm upped its stake to 29%, prompting opposition in some political and business circles in Italy amid fears that Parmalat would fall into foreign control.

Speculation then grew that an Italian national consortium of financial and industry groups could make a rival bid for Parmalat but an offer never emerged.

In late April, Lactalis launched its EUR3.4bn bid, viewed by some investors in Parmalat as too low. Parmalat's board turned down the offer but last month Lactalis, as the company's largest shareholder, was able to nominate candidates to the Italian firm's board.

Lactalis secured nine out of the 11 seats on the Parmalat board and all but made it certain that it would not have to increase its offer.