Lactalis has acquired a 29 per cent share in Parmalat as the Italian government looks into ways of preventing the dairy company from falling into foreign hands.
Privately-owned French dairy Lactalis built up the stake over the past week by buying out three foreign funds - Skagen AS, Mackenzie Financial Corporation and Zenit Asset Management.
The move makes Lactalis the largest shareholder in Parmalat and gives the company significant influence ahead of an April shareholder meeting at which the board or directors is to be elected. Lactalis has already published its recommendations that do not include existing CEO Enrico Bondi.
The move on Parmalat has not gone unnoticed by the Italian government. The cabinet is sitting down this week to consider means of making government approval a condition of takeovers of Italian companies that are considered strategic.
In the case of Parmalat it is the €1.4bn in cash held by the company that the Italian government may consider particularly strategic.
This money has been built up through litigation cases that followed Parmalat’s dramatic fall from grace in 2003 when a huge fraudulent debt cover-up sent the firm into bankruptcy.