The US food giant Kraft Foods has remained understandably tight-lipped on rumours that the company is preparing to launch a bid for French dairy group Danone and the southern European arm of the UK's United Biscuits.
"It is our policy not to comment on acquisition rumours," Annica Johansson, Kraft's senior manager global external communications, told just-food today (26 June). "However, what we can tell you is that, as stated in our strategy, we will continue to focus on our global cores - biscuits, coffee, cheese and dairy and specialty refreshment beverages. We plan to grow our business through both organic growth and acquisitions."

The UK's Financial Times reported on Sunday that Kraft was preparing a bid of more than GBP570m (US$1.03bn) for the southern European division of UB, without citing sources. Kraft has been particularly keen to develop its Spanish biscuit business, and it is widely held that UB's assets in that market and category would strategically drive Kraft's growth.

UB appointed Goldman Sachs to conduct a strategic review of its businesses in February. The company contacted potential buyers last week and it is expected that first-round bids will begin next week.

Meanwhile Roger Deromedi, Kraft's chief executive, told French newspaper Le Figaro that Kraft wanted to invest in the French market. His comments reignited rumours that Kraft may be considering a bid for Danone, France's iconic dairy, drinks and biscuit group.

Takeover rumours have been linked to Danone sporadically for the past year, beginning with speculation concerning a PepsiCo bid last summer. However, the French Government is committed to defending Danone from a hostile bid, adding the company to a list of 20 French companies that could not be taken over by foreign companies.