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ITALY: New law could see Parmalat postpone AGM

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The Italian government has passed a new law that could allow food and beverage maker Parmalat to postpone its AGM, potentially giving critics of Lactalis's investment in the Italian dairy giant more time to consider their options.

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Italy's Ministry for Economic Development has confirmed to just-drinks' sister site, just-food, that Rome has given Italian companies the power to postpone shareholder meetings up to 180 days after the end of their financial year.

The law could mean that opponents of Lactalis' investment in fruit-based beverage and dairy maker Parmalat have longer to weigh up their response.

The French dairy company's acquisition of a 29% stake in Parmalat has led Italian politicians and businesses to express a desire to keep the company in Italian hands.

Lactalis' stake is just short of the 30% threshold that would trigger a mandatory offer for the entire share capital of Parmalat, although the Parmalat president has said it has no intention of tabling an offer for the whole business.

However, at Parmalat's AGM, due on 14 April, Lactalis, now the company's biggest shareholder, will put a slate of board nominees up for election, possibly handing it a significant amount of control of the Italian firm's strategy.

Paolo Romani, Italy's minister for economic development, said today (24 March) that the new law gave the Italian government time to see if it could adopt further rules to defend Parmalat.

A spokesperson for Parmalat said the company had yet to decide whether to push back its AGM. "I'm not sure that we will take advantage [of the new law]," she said.


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