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March 22, 2011

UPDATE: ITALY: Concerns over Parmalat board prompt sale – shareholders

Three funds have entered into an agreement to sell their 15.3% stake in Parmalat to Lactalis because their plans to elect a "highly-qualified board" have been "compromised".

Three funds have entered into an agreement to sell their 15.3% stake in Parmalat to Lactalis because their plans to elect a “highly-qualified board” have been “compromised”.

Zenit Asset Management, Skagen, and Mackenzie Financial Corporation entered an agreement in January to jointly file and vote for a slate of candidates to be appointed to the board of directors and the board of statutory auditors.

When Lactalis took its initial 11.42% stake in the Italian dairy manufacturer on Thursday, it said that it would also present a series of candidates for Pamalat’s board of directors.

The three funds said today (22 March) said that Lactalis’ announcement to “build substantial shareholdings” have led to an “increased risk of a split board and of an inefficient governance”.

Following the transaction, Lactalis will hold a direct and potential shareholding that combined would account for approximately 29% of Parmalat.

When it took the initial 11.42% stake, Lactalis said it did not plan to break the 30% ownership threshold that would trigger a mandatory tender offer under Italian law.

Lactalis said the agreement will be executed today in the “quickest necessary technical timing” and could be made by direct acquisitions by Lactalis or as part of equity swap contracts.

In the wake of Lactalis’ first investment, Italian economy minister Giulio Tremonti presented the cabinet with the outlines of a possible legal measure to protect Italian companies from foreign buyers.

Meanwhile, while there has been speculation that Ferrero was interested in taking a stake in the manufacturer and that Italian dairy group Granarolo would be interested in joining a consortium with the confectionery manufacturer to try keep Parmalat in Italian hands.

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