* Italian govt approves takeover limits
* Moves come as Parmalat battle heats up
* tensions rise between Rome and Paris
(Adds background, details)
By Giuseppe Fonte
ROME, March 23 The Italian government approved
measures on Wednesday that would restrict foreign takeovers of
companies in the food, energy, defence and telecoms sectors, a
government source said.
The restrictions, first mooted by Economy Minister Giulio
Tremonti last week, would be based on a principle of
reciprocity, allowing target companies to use similar defences
to those allowed in the country of the buyer, the source said.
The measures come as Italy's biggest listed food maker
Parmalat (PLT.MI) and No.2 power group Edison EDN.MI are
engaged in battles for control with French shareholders. French
luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (LVMH.PA) is
also buying Italian jeweller Bulgari BULG.MI. [ID:nLDE72M0E9]
Italian newspapers said the measures would require foreign
investors acquiring Italian companies to obtain government
approval 60 days in advance.
They would also give Italy's bourse regulator Consob
equivalent powers to France's AMF to require clarification of
potential hostile offers.
The fact that they would be based on similar measures in
France would help get around potential objections from European
authorities in Brussels, the paper said.
The scope for government action over takeovers was
underlined late on Monday when Italy's tax agency said it was
checking whether the sales of stakes in Parmalat and jeweller
Bulgari were in line with tax rules.
Ferrero, maker of chocolate spread Nutella, met Lactalis'
owners in Paris this week to consider a possible acquisition of
the French group's stake in Parmalat, but did not reach an
agreement, a source close to the situation said.
The source said Ferrero was not considering a full takeover
of Parmalat at the moment and would wait for the decision by the
Italian government on the possible anti-takeover law before
chosing its course of options.
"Ferrero does not see a full takeover as an option at the
moment," the source said. "The group does not intend to overpay
(Additional reporting by Giselda Vagnoni and Antonella Ciancio;
Editing by Alexander Smith)