Parmalat Seeks Archway Cookies Buyer

CLEVELAND - Troubled dairy conglomerate Parmalat is seeking a buyer for its Archway Cookies business in North America, the company told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

"Parmalat Bakery Group, North America confirms that a consultant has been retained for the purposes of reviewing the prospects of a potential sale of the Bakery Group," the company said in an e-mail reply to a query from The Associated Press.

The founder and several top executives of its parent company, Italian dairy giant Parmalat Finanziaria S.p.A., were recently arrested because of their alleged connection to multibillion dollar fraud. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has also filed suit, alleging Parmalat engaged "in one of the largest and most brazen corporate financial frauds in history" that forced Parmalat to file for bankruptcy in December.

Before the scandal broke, Parmalat had indicated that Archway was up for sale as part of an effort to focus on its core businesses.

Parmalat Bakery Group, North America told the AP that the company, which operates independently in North America, continues to conduct business as usual.

The sale of Archway could attract about $400 million, about the same as the company's estimated annual sales, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The newspaper said that several corporate buyers and private-investment firms have expressed interest in a possible deal, and signed confidentiality agreements that would give them access to private Archway financial data.
Archway's bakery operations are based in Battle Creek, Mich., and include a bakery in Ashland, Ohio.

Archway makes Archway cookies and the Mother's label Original Circus Animal Cookies and also makes private-label cookies.
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