Italian court to quiz Parmalat over Lactalis America deal

* Parmalat agreed to buy Lactalis America Group in May

* Consob, investors have criticised the U.S. deal

* Prosecutors in Parma probing the deal on Consob request

* Civil court meets on Oct. 26

MILAN, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Italian food group Parmalat

has received a request from a civil court in thenorthern Italian city of Parma to attend a hearing later thismonth relating to an investigation into a U.S. deal by itsparent Lactalis.

The hearing on October 26 is part of a wider criminal probeby prosecutors in Parma into alleged irregularities in the deal,in which Parmalat agreed in May to buy Lactalis American Groupfor more than $900 million.

Italy's market regulator Consob has questioned the use ofpart of Parmalat's 1.5 billion-euro cash pile to finance theacquisition, which was completed in July.

The investigation is at a preliminary stage and does nottarget a specific crime or person, a judicial source said onFriday.

Parmalat reiterated on Monday that the transaction wascarried out in the interest of the company, in a transparent wayand in accordance with the law.

The dairy group has repeatedly said that the deal, which wasunanimously approved by its board and its internal control andgovernance committee in May, was motivated by prospects ofexpansion in the growing North American market.

French dairy company Lactalis took control of Parmalat in a4.3 billion euro takeover last year. There had been hopes thatParmalat could stay in Italian hands but a counter-bid for thecash-rich food company failed to materialise.

(Reporting by Antonella Ciancio. Editing by Jane Merriman)

((Antonella.Ciancio@thomsonreuters.com)(+39 0266129722)(ReutersMessaging: antonella.ciancio.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))


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