Italy Prosecutor Said to Probe Parmalat Stock for Manipulation

Milan prosecutor Eugenio Fusco is probing movements of Parmalat SpA (PLT) stock amid a battle for control that led to a 16 percent gain in the dairy company’s market value this year, said two people familiar with the probe.

Parmalat Chief Executive Officer Enrico Bondi was questioned as a witness by Fusco today, said two people, who declined to be identified because the probe is ongoing. The prosecutor has been reviewing share activity dating back to at least February, one of the people said.

Groupe Lactalis on March 22 said it would buy the 15.3 percent stake held by a group of activist investors, boosting its stake to 29 percent, becoming Collecchio, Italy-based Parmalat’s biggest investor.

Lactalis bought the Parmalat shares from a group of foreign investors that had been pressuring Bondi to use the company’s 1.44 billion euros ($2.04 billion) in net financial assets to either make acquisitions or pay out bigger dividends. Bondi accumulated the funds through lawsuits against the company’s former banks and accountants, who he accused of helping sustain the fraud that led to the company’s 2003 bankruptcy.

Spokespeople for Parmalat and Lactalis, who declined to be identified in keeping with company policy, said they had no comment today. A call to Fusco's office after hours wasn't answered.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sonia Sirletti in Milan at ssirletti@bloomberg.net; To contact the reporters on this story: Elisa Martinuzzi in Milan at emartinuzzi@bloomberg.net

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