General Mills "to win race" for Yoplait

General Mills "to win race" for Yoplait

General Mills is reportedly set to buy the 50% stake held in dairy business Yoplait by private-equity firm PAI Partners.

According to reports in Le FigaroThe Wall Street Journal and from the Bloomberg news agency, General Mills, which has held the US licence to Yoplait since 1977, is set to emerge as the winner in what had become a fiercely competitive race to buy PAI's half of the French firm.

The reports said a deal between General Mills and PAI values Yoplait at EUR1.6bn (US$2.24bn). Citing anonymous sources, Bloomberg claimed an announcement could be made as an early as tomorrow (18 March).

PAI first announced its intention to sell its half of Yoplait last summer. The private-equity firm bought its stake in Yoplait in 2002 from French dairy co-op Sodiaal, which was then the yoghurt maker's sole owner. Sodiaal kept the other 50% of the business.

Nine suitors made offers for PAI's stake and, although the private-equity firm and Sodiaal refused to name the interested parties, the likes of Nestle, Lactalis and China's Bright Food were reported to have tabled bids.

In November, PAI and Sodiaal turned down a EUR1.4bn offer for the whole of Yoplait from French dairy company Lactalis.

The Yoplait owners said the offer did not adequately value the business, while Sodiaal had indicated that it wanted to remain a shareholder in the firm.

Officials at PAI and General Mills could not be reached for immediate comment.