January 10, 2013 / 6:27 PM / 5 years ago

Italian milk group Granarolo buys French cheesemaker

MILAN, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Italian milk group Granarolo, a competitor of French-controlled dairy group Parmalat, said it had agreed to buy French cheesemaker CIPF Codipal from holding Compagnie du Forum SAS as part of its strategy to grow internationally.

Granarolo, better known for its yoghurts and fresh milk bottles, is eyeing acquisitions in the cheese industry to better compete with rivals including Lactalis-owned Parmalat.

The cooperative group, in which Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo owns 19.8 percent, said on Thursday it expected to generate additional revenues of 100 million euros ($132 million) every year from the deal, whose completion is due by April 2014.

“The acquisition of CIPF Codipal is essential for our international expansion and for the exports of Italian products,” Chairman Gianpiero Calzolari said in a statement.

The group did not provide further financial details.

CIPF Codipal, with a turnover of 105 million euros in 2012, makes Italian mozzarella and parmesan cheese under private label Casa Azzurra.

Private labels, which can be found in supermarkets, are growing as a cheaper shopping alternative for cash-strapped consumers during the recession.

Granarolo said the deal would also help it gain market share in France, where CIPF Codipal is present with brands such as Les Fromagers de Ste Colombe.

After the deal, Granarolo expects cheese to account for 40 percent of its revenues from 18 percent in 2011.

Granarolo emerged as a possible suitor for larger rival Parmalat when the Parma-based maker of long-life milk and breakfast snacks was bought by French rival Lactalis in 2011.

The Parmalat acquisition, which followed that of jeweller Bulgari by French luxury group LVMH the same year, prompted a protectionist reaction in Italy against foreign takeovers of domestic companies.

Granarolo is controlled by Italian cooperative Granlatte, which represents farmers and producers and owns 77.5 percent.

The group, which bought yoghurt brand Yomo in 2004, said it expects revenues to double by 2016 as it eyes acquisitions in Italy and abroad and launches new products.

$1 = 0.7568 euros Reporting by Antonella Ciancio; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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