Blog: Dean BestIn the dark over Bright Food's Yoplait intentions

Dean Best | 10 February 2011

The sale of a 50% stake in global yoghurt brand Yoplait has stirred the interest of a number of food makers in recent months and this week's confirmation that the seller - private-equity firm PAI Partners - has received nine bids has given fresh impetus to a story that first emerged last summer. But there remains a great deal of uncertainty, not least over whether Bright Food, the Chinese food group, is in fact one of the bidders.

PAI and fellow Yoplait shareholder Sodiaal (the French dairy co-op wants to remain a shareholder in the yoghurt maker) confirmed to us yesterday (9 February) that they had had nine separate bids for the private-equity firm's stake.

The two shareholders did not confirm the identity of the interested parties except to say that some were based in France and some outside - and some were trade buyers and others financial players.

Reports in France have cited Nestle, General Mills, Groupe Bel and private-equity giant Lion Capital as among the bidders - and Bright Food's name has also cropped up.

In fact, according to Le Figaro, Bright Food tabled the highest bid for PAI's stake. The bid, the newspaper said, valued the whole of Yoplait at around EUR1.7bn (US$2.31bn).

Bright Food has regularly appeared in M&A headlines in recent months, with speculation in the autumn linking the company to United Biscuits, the UK biscuit and snack maker in which PAI is also a shareholder.

The Chinese firm was reported to have walked away from acquiring UB (and was said to have also done the same with US nutritional retailer GNC) but is now said to be in the race for Yoplait.

That is if you exclude reports from China, which today suggested that Bright Food did NOT bid for Yoplait.

An unnamed senior Bright Food executive was quoted by the China Securities Journal as saying the conglomerate did not submit an offer for the stake in Yoplait - although the executive did say it was possible that one of the Chinese company's subsidiaries had held talks with Yoplait.

Last month, Bright Food confirmed to us that it was looking to make global acquisitions, notably in the dairy sector.

The plot thickens.


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