Italian confectioner Ferrero has refused to comment on reports it has been approached by investment banks about forming an "industrial partnership" with Cadbury.

Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore today (17 November) reported that family-owned Ferrero might be considering an offer with friendly investors for an alliance with UK confectioner Cadbury, the subject of a hostile bid from Kraft.

It is understood that the Italian chocolate maker has been approached by Mediobanca SpA about the partnership, the publication said.

Pietro Ferrero and his brother Giovanni, both chief executive officers, are said to both see a merger as an "opportunity".

Last week, US food group Kraft took its US$16.2bn offer for Cadbury to the UK company's shareholders, refusing to sweeten its price. Cadbury called on its shareholders to turn down the hostile takeover bid with the UK group's chairman criticising the US food giant's offer.

Ferrero declined to comment when contacted by just-food. Cadbury did not return a call for comment at time of press.