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Parmalat tight-lipped on shareholder criticism of LAG acquisition

By Mark Astley , 05-Oct-2012
Last updated on 05-Oct-2012 at 13:14 GMT2012-10-05T13:14:57Z

Italian dairy giant Parmalat is remaining tight lipped following reports that its $904m intra-group acquisition of Lacatalis America Group (LAG) was met with criticism from shareholders.

The UK-based Financial Times (FT) reported earlier this week that two minority shareholders wrote to the Parmalat board suggesting that the May 2012 acquisition of LAG showed that management was acting exclusively in the interest of the majority shareholder – BSA International.

BSA International has an 83% interest in Parmalat. French dairy giant Lacatalis and LAG are also subsidiaries of the business.

This led to suggestions from a number of Italian media outlets that the purchase was merely a way for BSA International to move money between its subsidiaries. 

Following the transaction, shareholders Gamco Asset Management and Fidelity Worldwide Investment expressed their views to the Parmalat board in separate letters, the FT reported.

Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Parmalat spokesman Fabio Caporizzi declined to discuss the existence or the content of the letters.

“Strategic acquisition”

“Parmalat cannot comment on the opinion of one of its shareholders,” said Caporizzi.

“The company is not ready to share more information. But what I can say is that the management is always ready to listen to minority shareholders, share information with them, and give them the opportunity to understand the groups position.”

Caporizzi then fought off claims made by the FT that the LAG acquisition was co-ordinated in the interest of BSA International.

“The acquisition of Lactalis America Group was a strategic acquisition for Parmalat because it gave us access a bigger market in the US and Latin America. On the other hand, Parmalat can understand why some shareholders may disagree.  We can see that perhaps they did not have enough information.”

“Private matter”

DairyReporter.com also approached both Fidelity Worldwide Investment and Gamco Asset Management about the letters sent to Parmalat.

Fidelity Worldwide Investment’s global head of communications, Peter Yandle, was able to confirm that a letter was sent to Parmalat in response to the LAG acquisition, but also declined to discuss its contents.

“The letter was something we sent to the company; it was not intended to be made public,” said Yandle. “Yes there was a letter, but we have nothing else to add. The nature of the exchange was a private matter and we cannot say anything more.”

Contact was made with Gamco Asset Management, but no one from the company was available to discuss the letter before publication.