UPDATE 2-Intesa, SG, Lazard probed over Parmalat -sources

Thu May 12, 2011 8:44am EDT

* Probe linked to Lactalis bid for Parmalat

* Banks probed for administrative responsibilities -source

* Parmalat shares up 0.08 pct, sector down

(Adds Lazard under investigation, second source)

By Emilio Parodi

MILAN, May 12 (Reuters) - Milan prosecutors have included banks Intesa Sanpaolo, Lazard and the Italian unit of France's Societe Generale in their probe into French dairy group Lactalis's bid for Parmalat, two sources involved in the probe said on Thursday.

Tax police are investigating possible market-rigging and insider trading linked to Lactalis's takeover of Parmalat (PLT.MI), Italy's biggest dairy group.

Lactalis, Europe's largest dairy company, acquired 29 percent of Parmalat in March and offered 3.4 billion euros ($4.75 billion) for the rest of the company last month in its bid to create the world's largest dairy group.

Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI), Lazard (LAZ.N) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PA) have been placed under investigation for possibly failing to prevent potentially illegal conduct by employees, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Four people under investigation include Fabio Cane, head of special projects and private equity at Intesa Sanpaolo's (ISP.MI) investment bank, and his wife Patrizia Micucci, the head of Societe Generale (SOGN.PA) investment banking in Italy, according to a search warrant seen by Reuters on Wednesday. [ID:nLDE74A2EE]

The others are Lazard (LAZ.N) Italy Chairman Carlo Salvatori and Massimo Rossi, a former chief executive at Swedish Match SWAMA.ST. Three foreign investment funds had picked Rossi to be interim chief executive at Parmalat.

POLICE RAIDS

Cane is under investigation for alleged insider trading and the others for alleged market-rigging, the warrant said.

Intesa Sanpaolo had no immediate comment. Lazard was not immediately available for comment. A Societe Generale spokeswoman said the bank was cooperating with the Italian authorities and confirmed that the Italian tax police had visited its offices in Milan in relation to Parmalat.

Prosecutors say in the warrant that Cane had "privileged information" about the price that Intesa Sanpaolo had offered the foreign funds for their overall 15.3 percent stake in Parmalat.

Cane then allegedly passed the information to his wife and Lactalis offered a higher price, the warrant said. Micucci, Rossi and Salvatori also allegedly had released "false news" that had affected the Parmalat share price, it said.

Tax police raided the Italian offices of French bank Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA), Societe Generale, Lazard, Intesa Sanpaolo, two public relations firms, a home of one of the suspects and an investment fund on Wednesday as part of the inquiry.

Under Italian law, companies who have their offices searched are not necessarily being investigated. Lactalis has said it is not under investigation.

Parmalat is due to report first-quarter results on Thursday. Its shares were up 0.08 percent at 2.638 euros at 1243 GMT. The STOXX 600 Europe food and beverage index .SX3P was down 0.33 percent. (Additional reporting by Elisa Anzolin and Valentina Za in Milan and by Matthieu Protard in Paris; Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Paola Arosio and Will Waterman) ($1=.7158 Euro)