The French government has hailed the closing of the deal that will see dairy co-operative Sodiaal acquire French cheese maker Entremont Alliance. 

Under the auspices of a government committee on industrial restructuring, an agreement was reached on Friday (17 December) between Sodiaal, holding company Unifem, which is Entremont’s sole shareholder and Entremont’s creditors.

France’s Industry Minister Christine Lagarde and Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire said the acquisition, which takes effect on 1 January, “will create a co-operative group with more than 7,000 staff and represent milk resources of 5bn litres, giving it the necessary critical mass to be able compete with the major European groups”.

Sodiaal was not immediately available to comment. However, an Entremont spokesman confirmed the closing of the deal, although he declined to elaborate further.

Negotiations on the takeover began in October 2009 but the reimbursement and restructuring of Entremont’s debts – which in February were estimated at EUR335.6m –  had been cited as the principal sticking point in Sodiaal’s bid to acquire the company.

While a draft agreement on the terms and conditions of the takeover was announced by Sodiaal in June, it gave no indication when the deal might be finalised.   

Regulatory approval from France’s Competition Authority was secured in September.