Lactalis takeover of Parmalat: Hopes of domestic bid failing

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 28th April 2011

Italian companies are reportedly not preparing a counter-bid for Parmalat, the country’s largest dairy processor and owner of Australian milk brand Paul’s, which is subject to a EUR3.4bn takeover offer from France’s Lactalis.

Reuters yesterday cited sources within the Italian government as saying no rival bid is being lined up for Parmalat, a business some ministers have labelled as “strategic” to the country’s economy.

However, state financial holding Cassa Depositi e Prestiti could acquire a minority stake in Parmalat to protect Italian interests, Reuters reported the sourced as saying.

Yesterday, Lactalis, which owns a near 29% stake in Parmalat, tabled a full takeover offer for the company worth EUR3.4bn (US$4.98bn).

The French dairy giant has faced opposition from some Italian politicians and business operators over its shareholding in Parmalat.

Lactalis’s stake building prompted concern that one of Italy’s “strategic” companies could fall into foreign ownership.

Rome passed an emergency decree allowing companies based in Italy to delay shareholder meetings – a move said to be a way of giving Parmalat time to consider its options – and the Italian firm pushed back its meeting until June.

The Italian government also indicated that it wanted a “consortium” of domestic companies and banks to keep Parmalat in Italian hands.

Since Lactalis’s investment, reports in Italy have speculated that domestic banks could buy into Parmalat to prevent the French firm from taking control.

Amid the speculation, earlier this month, reports also claimed Parmalat could buy smaller rival Granarolo before being taken over by a national consortium, although at the time Parmalat declined to comment.

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