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Italy court appoints commissioner to oversee Parmalat

Cartons of milk are seen in a supermarket in Rome April 1, 2011. REUTERS/Max Rossi
Cartons of milk are seen in a supermarket in Rome April 1, 2011. REUTERS/Max Rossi

PARMA, Italy (Reuters) - An Italian court on Friday appointed Angelo Manaresi as special commissioner to oversee Parmalat as part of a probe into its $900 million acquisition of a U.S. dairy unit last year, according to the ruling document seen by Reuters.

Parmalat, majority owned by French cheesemaker Lactalis, is facing both criminal and civil legal inquiries into last May's intra-group deal, which regulators and minority investors say deprived the company of cash.

Prosecutor Gerardo Laguardia had asked the civil court to appoint an administrator to run the dairy company for 4-5 months, replacing the current board.

Judges in Parma, where the Italian dairy group is based, said in the ruling that the board of Parmalat will keep its management powers.

The inquiries began after a fund manager with a stake in Parmalat complained that its investment had been damaged by the deal that saw the Italian company buy Lactalis American Group (LAG), a unit of Lactalis.

The commissioner will oversee talks to set the final price of the purchase of LAG.

Parmalat, which is 83 percent owned by Lactalis after a 4.3 billion euro takeover in 2011, has repeatedly said the deal was carried out in accordance with the law and in order to expand in the growing North American market.

Parmalat could not be immediately reached on Friday for a comment on the ruling.

(Reporting By Valentina Accardo)