PAI Partners considers sale of Yoplait stake

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

The private equity owner of Yoplait is considering selling its 50 per cent share in the French dairy company, according to newswire reports.

Citing an unnamed source, Dow Jones said yesterday that PAI Partners is in discussion with investment banks about a possible sale of the French dairy giant.

PAI, which also owns stakes in dairy ingredients supplier Chr. Hansen and snack firm United Biscuits, bought a 50 per cent holding in Yoplait back in June 2002 from the French dairy cooperative Sodiaal. The co-op retained the remaining share in the business.

At the time, PAI said it intended to build the strength and global presence of Yoplait, investing in product innovation and branding.

Growth record

In partnership with Sodiaal, PAI succeeded in growing the global turnover of the business from about €2bn in 2002 to over €3.5bn last year. Yoplait is now the second largest brand of fresh dairy products in France and commands a considerable presence in overseas markets. It has a presence in almost 50 countries and North America accounts for almost 50 per cent of its gross turnover.

The Financial Times said Yoplait is likely to attract interest from foreign dairy rivals like Nestle, General Mills, and Arla Foods and could be auctioned off for as much as €1.2bn.

United Biscuits

Yoplait is not the only business PAI could be putting up for sale. According to press reports, United Biscuits, which is owned jointly by PAI and fellow private equity group Blackstone, is also being put up for sale.

In its report, the Financial Times said owners of food assets consider that now is a good time to sell because food is seen as a safe bet in uncertain economic times.

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