International

• A plan to require recipients of unemployment benefit to sign up to individual back-to-work plans has provoked deadlock among the French employers’ organisation MEDEF and five main unions. The proposals, put forward by MEDEF, have won the agreement of two of the unions. But the CGC, the CGT and Force Ouvriäre have all refused to sign up to the proposals, complaining that they would impose unacceptable sanctions on job seekers who did not accept the plan drawn up for them. The disagreement has brought to an end negotiations aimed at establishing a new framework for the organisation of unemployment benefits after the current cross-industry agreement expires at the end of June.

Rivals call for action on telecoms takeover

• The European Commission is planning to block WorldCom’s $130bn takeover of rival US telecoms company Sprint. Officials have drafted a decision to veto the merger because they are concerned about the market power of the merged company. Rivals of the two have pressed the commission to be tough on the merger and some have called for the sale of WorldCom’s Internet arm Uunet. Commission officials have also been discussing the sale of Sprint’s long-distance telecoms network. The commission will now discuss the issue with competition authorities from each EU country.

Joint bid looks set to win in Nabisco deal

• The £16bn auction of Nabisco entered its final stage this week after the French food group Danone finalised its plans for a joint offer with Cadbury Schweppes. Second-round bids for the maker of Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers are due in on Wednesday. US analysts feared US tobacco group Philip Morris, which owns Kraft Foods, would not face competition for Nabisco because competitors were thought to face tax hurdles. But Danone and Cadbury have reportedly agreed on a structure for a joint bid, which they hope will avoid tax obstacles associated with splitting the company in two.

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