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Lactalis and Ferrero 'discuss Parmalat deal'

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Lactalis and Ferrero 'discuss Parmalat deal'

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Faced with Italian government moves to block any takeover of Parmalat, Italy’s biggest listed food group, the French diary giant Lactalis is reportedly talking to another Italian food producer, Ferrero, about forming a consortium.

Lactalis has built up a 29 percent stake in Parmalat but denies it is considering a full take-over.

The French newspaper Les Echos has reported that a holding company could now be set up including other Italian investors.

The head of bank Intesa Sanpaolo, which owns 2.4 percent of Parmalat, said that an Italian government decree restricting foreign takeovers has opened the way for long-term investment by Ferrero in Parmalat.

The centre-right government approved a decree on Wednesday bolstering Italian food, energy, defence and telecoms companies against foreign takeovers.

Intesa Sanpaolo Chief Executive Corrado Passera said the decree gave Parmalat more time to form an Italian consortium.

The move lets Parmalat postpone to June a shareholders meeting due on 14 April where Lactalis could seal its control of the company’s board.

“The fact of having a bit of time is one of the positive pre-conditions, which is now in place,” Corrado Passera, who has been involved in trying to set up an Italian consortium, told reporters.

“Now the conditions for a valid initiative are there,” he said, citing Ferrero’s commitment to a “long-term industrial project.”