A US federal court has instructed the banks and auditors accused of contributing to Italian dairy giant Parmalat’s EUR14bn (18.15bn) collapse to discuss a settlement with the group, causing shares in Parmalat to gain.

Judge Lewis Kaplan of the US District Court for the southern district of New York adjourned pre-trial proceedings until 31 December and instructed the parties involved to explore a settlement, Parmalat said in a statement.

The statement did not name the plaintiffs, but Parmalat has pending litigation against the Bank of America, Citigroup, Deloitte & Touche and Grant Thornton. In addition to the US suits, the company has 12 damage claims pending against financial institutions in Italy.

The possibility that Parmalat could soon get compensation sent the company’s shares up from an opening price of EUR2.97 yesterday (22 November) to EUR3.07 at time of press today.

Parmalat defaulted on more than EUR14bn in debt at the end of 2003 after acknowledging it didn’t have EUR3.95bn it claimed was in a Bank of America account.