Lactalis has confirmed reports that it has asked a court in Italy to block a move from Parmalat to delay its AGM, which was due to take place next week.

A spokesman for Lactalis said the company – which has a 29% stake in Parmalat and was set to put candidates up for election to the Italian group’s board at the meeting – believed there were “no legal grounds” for the delay.

Parmalat decided last week to put back its AGM after the Italian government – concerned at Lactalis’s stake building in the dairy group and the possibility that the French company could win control of the board – passed a law that allowed companies based in Italy to postpone their shareholder meetings.

The law was designed to give Parmalat more time to consider its options in the wake of Lactalis’ investment. Lactalis’s moves have sparked concern in government and business circles in Italy, with some politicians, food makers and financial institutions expressing a desire to keep Parmalat in Italian hands.

Amid widespread opposition to its position as a shareholder, there has been speculation in the Italian press that Lactalis could look to sell its shares. However, the Lactalis spokesman told just-food today (6 April) that the company has “no intention” of offloading its shares – and reiterated the company’s determination to help grow Parmalat.

“We are not financial people. The idea is to develop the brand,” the spokesman said.