Esselunga has flatly denied a report that US retailer Wal-Mart has approached the family-owned Italian retailer with a EUR4bn (US$5.13bn) takeover bid.

Responding to an article in Italian business daily Finanza & Mercati, a spokesperson for Esselunga told just-food: “The rumours are completely unfounded”.

The article is the latest in a chain of speculative media reports linking Esselunga to foreign retailers. Last month, rumours surfaced that the Italian supermarket operator was in talks with the UK’s Tesco. Esselunga chairman Bernardo Caprotti denied these reports. “We have no contacts with Tesco. Tesco and Esselunga are two incompatible companies,” Caprotti said in a written statement.

Esselunga posted revenue of EUR4.4bn in 2005 and operates 130 outlets.