Frustrated by two years of fruitless secret talks about combining their businesses, French electrical products giant Schneider on Feb. 19 unveiled a $1.8 billion bid for American competitor Square D. Schneider Chairman Didier Pineau-Valencienne believes that by combining Schneider's big European business with Square D's strong U. S. market share, he can create a global powerhouse in electromechanical controls and power distribution equipment.

Square D, based in Palatine, Ill., says only that it will review Schneider's proposal "in due course." But with Schneider's $78-a-share offer a rich 16 times Square D's 1990 earnings and a 50% premium over its pre-offer share price, Square D may have difficulty turning Schneider off.

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