Reuters reported that the board is to evaluate bids from private equity firms and big food manufacturers with a view to drawing up a short list by the end of February.
At the weekend the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche reported that nine bidders have put their names forward.
These include Lion Capital, AXA Private Equity and Bain Capital on the private equity side and Nestle, General Mills, Bel, Grupo Lala, The Bright Food Group and Groupe Lactalis from the food manufacturing sector.
Yoplait emerged as an acquisition target last summer when private equity firm PAI Partners announced its intention to sell its 50 per cent stake in company. The global yoghurt maker is currently half owned by PAI Partners and farming cooperative Sodiaal.
Looking over the bidding landscape, Jon Cox, head of European food and beverage research at Kepler Capital Markets, named US food giant General Mills as a likely winner.
General Mills tip
General Mills already forms part of Yoplait’s franchise model, distributing the brand in the US. Cox said it is therefore important to the company that the Yoplait stake does not fall into unfriendly hands.
The analyst told DairyReporter.com: “I believe that General Mills, given it has the Yoplait brand in North America, has most to lose from not having a friendly party take the stake and as a result it has to be involved.”
PAI Partners is expected to end speculation and pick a suitor in the coming months. The private equity company has already announced that it expects to agree on a sale of its 50-percent stake by the end of the first quarter 2011.
A €1.4bn unsolicited bid from Groupe Lactalis for the complete Yoplait business was rejected in November last year. Sodiaal has not expressed any interest in letting go of its share of the business.