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(Bloomberg) -- Ferrero SpA, the maker of Nutella hazelnut spread and Ferrero Rocher chocolates, said it’s not for sale after the death of owner Michele Ferrero spurred speculation that Nestle SA may make an approach to buy the Italian company.

Chief Executive Officer Giovanni Ferrero “strongly denies” rumors that Ferrero could be sold, the Alba, Italy- based company said in a statement today. The CEO, who is the son of Michele, reiterated that Ferrero “isn’t and won’t be for sale.”

Speculation that the company might be more open to mergers and acquisitions returned after Michele Ferrero, who was Italy’s richest person, died on Feb. 14 after months of illness. Ferrero avoided acquisitions, while newspapers including Il Sole 24 Ore said his sons saw a merger as an opportunity.

Societe Generale analyst Warren Ackerman wrote in a Feb. 16 note that the death may open the possibility that the Italian chocolate maker would consider tie-ups with foreign companies. He said he thinks Nestle may inquire informally if Ferrero is for sale. Philippe Aeschlimann, a spokesman for Nestle, declined to comment.

Italian daily La Repubblica in 2013 reported that Nestle had made an offer to buy Ferrero. The Italian company denied it at the time.

--With assistance from Tommaso Ebhardt in Milan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Corinne Gretler in Zurich at cgretler1@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net Thomas Mulier, Phil Serafino