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PARIS-The future of Paris-based Athena Assurances is once more in question following a hostile takeover bid for its parent company, Worms & Compagnie, by French businessman Francois Pinault.

Mr. Pinault earlier this month launched a hostile takeover bid for financial conglomerate Worms & Cie. for 30 billion French francs ($4.98 billion), the highest ever takeover bid on the French market. Worms, which owns 99.7% of Athena, later issued a press release advising its shareholders to reject the offer.

Assurances Generales de France in 1996 had indicated its interest in buying Athena from Worms.

AGF currently holds an indirect stake in Athena via its 7.3% share of Worms & Cie. stock.

"Everything stopped at the end of 1996 because Athena and the Worms group wanted

to work out what they would do," said a spokeswoman for AGF.

Athena wrote 18.6 billion French francs ($3.09 billion) in gross premiums last year, divided about equally between life and non-life business. The company's life business accounts for 3.2% of the French market, while the non-life business accounts for 2%.