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Commission backs Lactalis, Galbani deal

By staff reporter , 25-Apr-2006

Lactalis has the European Commission's blessing to complete its takeover of Italian cheese producer Galbani, opening up new avenues for the French giant in speciality cheese.

A question mark had hovered over the deal because both firms had a large slice of the French and Italian mozarella market, as well as a strong foothold on gorgonzola, crescenza and mascarpone cheeses in Italy.

The Commission, however, decided the Lactalis-Galbani combo would not be able to push up prices, because of continuing competition from lower end producers and small-time, traditional cheese makers.

 

"Those who like their insalata caprese and their tiramisu can rest assured that the merger will not mean higher prices or lower quality," said Neelie Kroes, the competition commissioner.

 

The clearance shows acceptance of further consolidation on mainland Europe's dairy market, and adds weight to Lactalis' position as Europe's number one cheese maker.

 

Lactalis already owns big French brands such as Société Roquefort, President and Brie de Meaux, and said it planned to launch Galbani's range of cheeses across its markets.

 

"The creation of a European-wide business in Italian cheese will enable us to develop these speciality products in all markets where Lactalis and Galbani are present," it said.

 

Galbani gets 23 per cent of its €1.3bn annual sales from exports. The firm processes around 800m litres of milk across three cheese factories in northern Italy.

 

Lactalis' successful takeover bid for Galbani came amid a flurry of activity from the group, bringing greater consolidation to Europe's dairy industry.

 

Lactalis signed a joint-venture deal with Nestlé before Christmas to form Europe's second biggest fresh dairy firm behind France's Danone. And, before that, the French group agreed to co-operate on sales with Dutch dairy Friesland Foods in Germany.

 

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