Banks gunning for Parmalat's disintegration

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dairy giant parmalat, Stock market, Parmalat

The strategy of Enrico Bondi, the administrator behind the
re-emergence of disgraced Italian dairy giant Parmalat, is in
danger of unraveling.

If a group of Italian banks is successful in pushing for the disintegration of the group, then Bondi's aim of re-establishing the firm as a dominant force will collapse.

The Italian bankers want the company's manufacturing operations separated from a mass of legal actions related to its collapse amid fraud two years ago in order to clear the way for a quick sale to a rival. Holes in the firms accounts hid the fact that the company was a whopping €14 billion in debt.

By the time of the shareholder meeting on 7 November, the bank faction could include some of Italy's largest financial groups such as Banca Intesa, Capitalia, SanPaolo IMI and Monte dei Paschi di Siena, according to the UK's Financial Times.​But Bondi, the government-appointed administrator who aims to recoup billions of dollars from banks and accounting firms allegedly implicated in the scandal, is unlikely to go down without a fight. He has already claimed €8.07 billion in damages in lawsuits filed against the group's auditors and banks.

More recently, Bondi launched a €1.3 billion compensation claim against Italian banking group Sanpaolo IMI. A first hearing is scheduled for 8 February 2006.

Parmalat has also sued banks JPMorgan Chase and Unicredito Italiano for €4.4 billion for their roles in the sale of Parmalat bonds issued from 1997 through 2001. Unicredito has consistently called the lawsuit groundless and said that it would defend its reputation, while JPMorgan has also denied any wrongdoing.

Indeed, the financial sector has repeatedly stated that it was fooled by the Parmalat fraud.

But such actions have slowly helped to turn around the company's fortunes. It was able to re-float on the Italian stock exchange earlier this year, despite the fact that Italian stock market regulator Consob raised questions over its future restructuring plans.

Bondi plans to run for election to lead the re-listed company, which sets the scene for a showdown at a Parmalat shareholder meeting on 7 November.

This battle for the future of Parmalat coincides with the trial of Calisto Tanzi, the founder of the scandal-hit dairy. He faces charges of false accounting and share price manipulation.

Tanzi is being tried in Milan alongside 15 former executives of the company, which was built up by Tanzi from a small family grocer in the northern Italian city of Parma to a company with 37,000 staff. He stands accused of manipulating the stock market, publishing false balance sheets and obstructing regulation by the stock market watchdog Consob.

Related topics: Manufacturers

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