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Yoplait owners reject €1.4bn Lactalis bid

By Helen Glaberson , 19-Nov-2010

The owners of French yoghurt maker Yoplait have rejected a €1.4bn ($1.96bn) unsolicited bid from dairy giant Lactalis yesterday.

The approach came in earlier this week after Yoplait emerged as an acquisition target this summer when private equity company PAI Partners announced its intention to sell its 50 per cent stake in the business which it bought from French dairy cooperative Sodiaal in 2002.

Potential competition

The rejected Lactalis’ bid not only included the PAI’s stake in Yoplait but also included Sodiaal’s 50 per cent share in Yoplait.

However Sodiaal has not expressed any interest in letting go of its share of the business.

Yoplait is likely to draw interest from big international companies. Names that have been put forward include food giants such as Nestle, General Mills, Asian food groups and private equity groups.

Mark Voorbergen a senior dairy analyst at Rabobank told DairyReporter.com that the opportunity to buy a “strong branded yoghurt business” with a wide geographic range of activities is fairly rare and therefore the potential lists of interested partieswill not be very small”.

Voorbergen said the most likely buyer would combine a strong financial position with an ability to outbid others due to synergies with current activities.

However, Voorbergen said “As everyone knows this not going to be a straightforward sale given the complicated nature of the Yoplait business.”

Yoplait operates a franchise model, partnering with other companies in foreign markets such as National Foods in Australia and General Mills in the US.

The Financial Times said the joint owners would prefer to find an international partner to help Yoplait expand into emerging markets.

But the newspaper suggested that the rejection of Lactalis’s bid could spark a politically sensitive battle over the future of Yoplait as Lactalis has presented its bid as the best way to ensure that Yoplait stays in French hands.

The publication said the fight to win Yoplait could be fierce, with the government taking a close interest in the fate of the company in addition to highly sensitive public opinion on the fate of its agri-food industry.

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