The acquisition of South African Del Monte is weighing heavily on Cirio Finanziaria, the parent group of Italian food multinational Cirio Alimentare.

For H1, Cirio Finanziaria announced debts stood at 1,870bn lire (US$0.89bn), 380bn lire more than at the beginning of the year. The sum is equal to the amount Cirio Alimentare paid Del Monte stockholders for control of the fruit and vegetable company after a lengthy dispute with Del Monte management.

Cirio Finanziaria put its H1 consolidated sales at 1,064bn lire, similar to that of H1 2000, and reported slight gains in operating margin (142bn lire) and operating profit (27bn lire).

The company also said savings are being achieved in the merger of Cirio and Del Monte operations in efforts to create a major global player in the fresh and canned fruits and vegetable sectors.

Cirio boss Sergio Cragnotti announced recently that the holding is willing to sell some other activities, including the Rome's football club Lazio, to raise capital to focus on the food sector. Italian stock market officials have questioned the company over its large debts.

By Hilmi Toros, just-food.com correspondent