Private-equity firm Pai Partners has confirmed that it has received nine bids for its 50% stake in YOPLAIT, the global yoghurt brand.

A statement from PAI and fellow Yoplait shareholder Sodiaal did not mention the candidates by name but said the group of bidders comprises industrial and financial groups that are French and foreign in origin.

PAI and Sodiaal will decide in the “coming days” which of the candidates will be invited to take part in the second stage of the bidding process, the statement added.

According to French reports, the candidates include Nestle, General Mills, Lactalis, Groupe Bel, Mexican dairy processor Grupo Lala and China’s Bright Food. Three private-equity firms – Lion Capital, AXA Private Equity and Bain Capital – have also submitted offers.

PAI and Sodiaal stipulate that the bids must allow management to consolidate Yoplait’s market share in countries where it is already a significant player, for example in France. 

A bidder must also optmise Yoplait’s international growth, including through the acquisition of certain franchise partners, and accelerate development where the group has little or no presence, such as emerging countries and regions with strong potential including China, India and Latin America, the shareholders said.

A spokesman for Lactalis, meanwhile, confirmed that the company is one of the candidates for PAI’s stake in Yoplait. 

In November, PAI and Sodiaal rejected a EUR1.4bn from Lactalis for the whole of Yoplait. They said Lactalis’s offer did not square with Sodiaal’s intention to remain a stable and long-term shareholder of Yoplait. Secondly, they said, the price offered by Lactalis did not reflect Yoplait’s value or its growth prospects.

“Lactalis’ renewed bid for Yoplait indicates just how highly we rank the brand,” the spokesman said. “We feel we are the best-placed (of the candidates) to contribute to the future development of Yoplait, providing expert input on the production and operational side and also putting to use our long-standing marketing experience, enabling the brand to take greater strides in international markets.”