January 30, 2018 / 3:26 PM / in 6 months

Brazil gives antitrust approval to Lactalis purchase of Itambé

SAO PAULO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Brazilian antitrust agency Cade approved on Monday the sale of dairy company Itambé Alimentos SA to France's Groupe Lactalis SA, according to the Tuesday edition of the federal government's official gazette.

The decision is subject to appeal for 15 days.

The December acquisition has sparked a dispute between Lactalis and Mexico's Lala SAB de CV.

Lala in October took ownership of Vigor Alimentos SA, a company that had a 50 percent stake in Itambé. Producer cooperative CCPR, which owned the other 50 percent of Itambe, later exercised its right to buy the half of the dairy company it did not own. After the purchase, CCPR resold Itambé to Lactalis.

Lactalis and Lala are handling the dispute in arbitration. Sources with knowledge of the matter say Lala has accused Lactalis and CCPR of breaching previous agreements with Vigor to do the deal.

The cooperative argues they had the right to acquire the 50 percent stake from Vigor and subsequently sell it to the French company. A court decision this month recognized the deal as valid but barred Lactalis from exercising management rights in the company.

Lala and Lactalis declined to comment on the dispute, which has been sealed by courts. (Reporting by Tatiana Bautzer; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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