Italian dairy group Parmalat, facing speculation about its future after Lactalis’s investment in the company, has refused to be drawn on reports linking it with a possible move for smaller rival Granarolo.

Reports in Italy have claimed that Parmalat, which has seen Lactalis build a 29% stake in its business, could buy Granarolo before being taken over by a consortium keen to keep the company in Italian hands.

Lactalis’ moves to buy a stake in Parmalat – and nominate candidates to the dairy processor’s board – have sparked concern in government and business circles in Italy. Some politicians, food makers and financial institutions have said they want Parmalat to remain Italian owned and there have been reports that a national consortium could be formed to buy the business.

A spokesperson for Parmalat refused to comment on the reports linking the business to an acquisition of Granarolo. An official close to Granarolo also declined to comment.

Andy Smith, head of global consumer equity research at analysts MF Global, said an acquisition of Granarolo would “approximately double” Parmalat’s Italian revenues – and could add 10% to its earnings per share.

Parmalat’s management has faced questions from some investors over its strategy, not least from three investment funds that, after agitating for change, sold their stake to Lactalis last month.

Parmalat, in a bid to allow its management time to consider its options, has delayed its AGM – set for next week – until June after the Italian government passed a law allowing local firms to postpone their shareholder meetings.

Lactalis has asked an Italian court to block the move, arguing that there are “no legal grounds” for the postponement.

Reports in Italy have also claimed Lactalis could in fact sell its 29% stake in Parmalat but this notion was refuted by the French company today (6 April).