A Mix of Microchips and Pasta

Olivetti's De Benedetti makes some surprising acquisitions

Can microchips mix with potato chips? Do electric typewriters go well with pasta? Will photocopiers blend with hamburgers? Far from being a recipe for corporate indigestion, this is just the kind of formula favored by Carlo De Benedetti, 50, chairman of Olivetti, Italy's giant maker of office automation and data-processing equipment.

Three months ago, De Benedetti, through a family holding company, became the principal owner of Industrie Buitoni Perugina, one of Italy's largest food producers. Last week he took another big bite by announcing that he would pay $250 million for 51% of SME, a food subsidiary of IRI, the Italian...

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