Parmalat braced for compensation claim verdict

Related tags Parmalat Bank of america

Parmalat, the bankrupt Italian dairy group, is bracing itself for
the verdict of an Italian judge, which could force Enrico Bondi,
the group's government-appointed administrator, to reconsider
claims from former creditors worth an estimated €4 billion, Tom
Armitage reports.

Despite Bondi initially slashing over €11.6 billion of creditors' original claims by more than €4 billion, he has since opted to reconsider a further €1 billion of claims in light of new evidence presented by a number of Parmalat's former creditors earlier this month.

Although the €1 billion is yet another substantial concession by Parmalat, which last month agreed to pay former creditor Deutsche Bank​ an additional €26 million, it represents the fragmented claims of more than 40 separate creditors, of which includes one of Italy's largest banks, Banca Intesa, which will now have an €89 million claim reconsidered.

Bondi's decision to initially reject claims was centred around the fact that Parmalat creditors continued to keep the company afloat, despite knowing that it was experiencing financial difficulties.

The Parma-based Italian judge, Guiseppe Coscioni, leading the first independent assessment of Bondi's actions, was set to deliver a verdict early last week, but has since claimed he needs more time.

Coscioni, who must decide whether to uphold the views of Bondi or those of Parmalat's former creditors, has been confronted with further complications, after US bank Citigroup announced last week that it is to sue the Italian Ministry of Productive Activities and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in a bid to shed light on its decision making process in the run-up to Parmalat's demise and acquit it of any alleged financial wrong-doing.

Any decision will signal particularly sizeable repercussions for US financial institutions Bank of America and also Citigroup - a favourable verdict by Coscioni, for instance, will make the companies large shareholders in the soon-to-be resurrected Parmalat, set for re-launch early next year.

But any compensation package will be in the form of equity in the new Parmalat company and not through actual financial recompense, due to its bankrupt status.

Regardless of any decision, however, Bank of America and Citigroup will still not be acquitted from Bondi's current $10 billion lawsuits filed in the US, and will also have to face additional existing claims from a number of Parmalat shareholders.

Last week Parmalat administrators revealed their fears that the feverous legal backlash, involving both criminal and civil lawsuits, could hamper future restructuring efforts.

"These actions against some of the largest creditors of the Parmalat group do not assist the restructuring process and, by encouraging additional litigation, jeopardise the success of the restructuring plan, the listing of the shares of Parmalat, and its future stability,"​ Bondi said in a statement issued last week.

According to an abstract in the Financial Times​, market research firm Nielsen has discovered that despite the company's highly publicised accounting scandal, consumer confidence across Parmalat's brand portfolio remains unaffected, with market share of its UHT milk down from 27.2 per cent in 2003, to a current 26.6 per cent.

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