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October 13, 2010

FRANCE: Lactalis coy over Yoplait “interest”

French dairy giant Lactalis was today (13 October) coy about its interest in Yoplait, the yoghurt maker that is set for a change of ownership.

By Dean Best

French dairy giant Lactalis was today (13 October) coy about its interest in Yoplait, the yoghurt maker that is set for a change of ownership.

Lactalis is the latest company to have been linked to Yoplait, which is set to see one of its owners, private-equity firm PAI Partners, sell its 50% stake in the business. Yoplait’s other shareholder, French dairy co-operative Sodiaal, has said it wants to hold on to at least part of its shares.

A spokesman for privately-held Lactalis, the world’s third-largest dairy processor, said the company’s former chairman Michel Leonard had indicated last year that the group could be interested in Yoplait. However, the spokesman refused to be drawn further on the issue.

“We have always said that Mr Leonard said we could be interested,” the spokesman told just-food. “We do not have any more comment.”

General Mills has also been named as a potential suitor although the company, which has held the licence for Yoplait across the Atlantic since 1977, has so far declined to comment.

The US food giant is in a dispute over its licence to Yoplait after Sodima, Sodiaal’s licencing arm, said it wanted to end the agreement between the two sides.

General Mills has filed for arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce in New York and the company’s chairman and CEO Ken Powell has warned that the process could “take months, if not years”. Discussions between the two sides over the licence are ongoing.

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