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Centrale Laitière deal 'key' to North African development - Danone

By Mark Astley , 25-Feb-2013

Danone has increased its stake in Moroccan dairy processor Centrale Laitière to 67% - a deal it has pinpointed as a “key step” for the company in North Africa.

The French dairy giant revealed late last week that it had complete a June 2012-agreed deal to increase its interest in Centrale Laitière from 29.2% to 67%. The deal saw Danone purchase a 46.8% share in the Moroccan dairy company from Société Nationale d’Investissement (SNI) for €543m.

Danone has held a 29.2% shareholding in Centrale Laitière - Morocco’s leading dairy product company - since 2001.The Danone brand is already well known in Morocco through products such as Yawmy, Moufid and Activia, which are all sold by Centrale Laitière.

Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Danone spokeswoman Agnès Berthet-d'Anthonay pinpointed Morocco as a market of great importance.

“North Africa has always been always been important for Danone – it has a lot of potential,” said Berthet-d'Anthonay. “The growth of the African markets is of great interest to Danone.”

Mandatory takeover bid

Having raised its shareholding in Centrale Laitière above the 40% threshold, Danone is now required to file a mandatory takeover bid for the remaining shares in the company.

The bid will likely be lodged within “the next few days.”

Berthet-d'Anthonay revealed, however, that Danone will not be able to increase its interest in Centrale Laitière to 100% as the mandatory bid will not include any shares still owned by SNI.

Danone’s stake in Centrale Laitière will likely increase by around an additional 10% in the mandatory takeover bid is successful, said Berthet-d'Anthonay.

136 French jobs cut

The Centrale Laitière stake increase comes just days after Danone revealed plans to cut 900 jobs across Europe in an effort to address “the lasting downturn of the European economy.”

Berthet-d'Anthonay confirmed that trade union discussions began last week in regards to the planned job cuts. She revealed that 136 jobs would be cut in France but declined to discuss the other on-going consultations.

“Last week, consultations started in a number of countries. We cannot, however, communicate the outcome of the consultation in most of these countries,” she said.

Indian acquisition talks stalled?

DairyReporter.com also pressed Danone on reports that it had been in talks to purchase a 20% stake in Indian dairy processor, Tirumala Milk Products. 

Danone declined to comment on the reports.

“Regarding your question about Tirumala, we do not comment,” Berthet-d'Anthonay said.

Hyperbad-based Tirumala Milk Products was also contacted concerning the media reports, but no response was forthcoming prior to publication. 

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