Groupe Danone chief Franck Riboud has said a successful takeover of Dutch nutrition group Royal Numico would create the "most powerful" health food company in the world.

Riboud made the claim after Danone said it would table a bid for Numico, which specialises in nutrition and baby food, including the Milupa and Cow & Gate brands.

The French food group intends to table an offer of some EUR55 a share for Numico, valuing the company at EUR12.3bn (US$16.8bn).

Danone's move to strengthen its health credentials comes just six days after it agreed in principle to sell its biscuits and cereals division to US giant Kraft Foods.

Riboud said Danone's offer - which represents a premium of some 44% on Numico's average share price over the last three months - is "a reflection of the outstanding quality and positioning of Numico as one of the world's leaders in healthy nutrition".

Riboud said: "The combination of the two groups will create a unique food company - the one with the clearest and most powerful health positioning in the world. With this project, we are designing a new Groupe Danone, enhancing dramatically its growth profile and its growth potential for the years to come."

The Numico board said it would recommend the offer to its shareholders. Danone needs Numico investors holding 66.67% of the company's shares to approve the offer for it to succeed. The French company plans to issue an offer memorandum to Numico shareholders next month.

Numico president and CEO Jan Bennink said Danone's plan to take over the group is "a recognition of the strength and quality of the group".

Bennink added: "A combination with Danone and the position of Numico within the enlarged Danone group will ensure its continued growth momentum for the future."

The companies insisted that Numico would continue to be headquartered at Schiphol, just outside Amsterdam. Danone and Numico said a deal "is not expected to have significant negative consequences on the employment situation of the combined business".