EU investigates Italian bid to protect Parmalat from Lactalis' advances

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union Parmalat

Recent Italian moves to frustrate the Lactalis approach on Parmalat have prompted the head of EU antitrust policy to warn that, if necessary, he is determined to use EU powers to preserve the openness of the internal market.

The Italian government has pushed through a decree allowing Parmalat to postpone its AGM from 12 April until 25 June. The move is designed to give Italian bankers and businesses the time to put together a domestic bid and prevent Lactalis from imposing its choice of board members at the meeting.

Lactalis had built up a 29 per cent shareholding in Parmalat which falls just short of the threshold for a mandatory takeover bid but is possibly high enough for the company to take control of the board.

“Closely following”​ developments

Joaquín Almunia, the antitrust chief at the European Commission, warned in a speech at the International Competition Law Forum in St. Gallen, Switzerland, that he is “closely following” ​developments.

Almunia said: “We are examining whether the case is reviewable under EU merger control. If it is, the Commission will have exclusive competence to assess its compatibility with EU competition rules and will act accordingly.”

The commissioner added that he is willing to enforce provisions in Article 21 of the Merger Regulation that give the Commission the power to ensure member states do not put up unjustified obstacles to cross-border mergers with EU implications.

“These powers have been used in the past against Member States that were invoking public security concerns to prevent legitimate transactions. And I am determined to rely on such powers again if necessary.”

Italian courts defend postponement

So far the Italian courts have not stood in the way of the postponement of the Parmalat AGM.

An Italian court in Palma rejected a complaint from Lactalis appealing for the AGM date to be brought back. The court ruled that the postponement of the meeting is in compliance with decree law No. 26 of 25 March 2011.

Related topics Manufacturers

Related news

Show more