Blog: Dean BestYoplait boss wants investor with global reach

Dean Best | 10 November 2010

The best investor in Yoplait will be a shareholder that can expand the yoghurt's business globally, the French firm's chief executive has explained.

Yoplait has been firmly in the food industry's M&A spotlight for months, with one of the company's two investors, private-equity firm PAI Partners, looking to sell its stake.

The other shareholder, French dairy co-op Sodiaal, has indicated that he wants to stay an investor in the business; all the while, companies like dairy group Lactalis and food giants Nestle and General Mills have been touted as potential suitors for Yoplait.

Lucien Fa told Reuters today that a new Yoplait investor would need to have the means to expand the business worldwide.

"The best partner for Yoplait, whether it is a financial or an industrial player, is one that will share the same vision, the same goal, which is to expand Yoplait internationally, where we are relatively weaker than Danone," Fa said.

The Yoplait boss, who joined the business in 2002 when PAI bought a 50% stake from Sodiaal and the two became partners, also commented on the licencing dispute casting a shadow over the brand in the US.

General Mills, the US licence holder for Yoplait, has filed for arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce in New York after Sodima, the licencing arm of Sodiaal, one of Yoplait's owners, said it wanted to end the licence agreement.

Talks between the two sides are ongoing and the situation has raised eyebrows at a time when General Mills has been put forward as a potential investor in Yoplait.

Fa told Reuters he believed a bid from General Mills was unlikely but said the licencing row was a coincidence and unrelated to PAI's plans to sell its shares in Yoplait.

Nevertheless, he defended Sodiaal's bid to end the agreement with General Mills.

"We feel the contract is not economically or financially balanced," Fa said. He added that it was too early to say if the deal would be renegotiated.


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