Honing its claws to the last decimal point, America’s secretive family-run Mars group is poised to make an unsolicited offer for French-owned Royal Canin, Europe’s largest petfood manufacturer.

The move is a marked change of strategy for Mars. John Mars, who co-manages the cabal with sister Jacqueline and brother Forrest, is on record as saying: “We don't buy and sell businesses. We build.”

The takeover, if it happens, will be Mars’ sole acquisition of consequence since the late 1980s when it bought Dove Bar International.

Royal Canin shares were suspended yesterday in the wake of unusual market movements. Said Bruno Manac'h, the company’s chief financial officer: “We tried to see who was moving the shares but we do not know who was behind the movements.”

Royal Canin would make no formal comment in advance of a statement, expected Monday. Its caution is understandable: French bank BNP Paribas which holds 56% of Canin stock has made no secret of its interest in disposing of its controlling stake.

News source: Financial Times