Britain’s largest liquid milk producer, Express Dairies, confirmed yesterday [Sunday] that it had received a takeover offer from Danish giant Arla.

The Leicester-based group, which says it controls 30% of the UK’s milk market, revealed that preliminary discussions “may or may not lead to a cash offer being made for the company”.

Any formal bid will put an end to months of speculation over the futures of Express, Arla and major UK competitor Robert Wiseman Dairies. Robert Wiseman and Express entered merger talks last May but a deal could not be agreed. Express later reported Robert Wiseman to the Office of Fair Trading for allegedly abusing its dominant market position in Scotland.

Unconfirmed reports have put Arla’s offer at 35p-a-share, which values Express Dairies at more than £100m (US$140m).

Aarhus-based Arla Foods, created in 1999 from a merger of MD Foods of Denmark and Sweden’s Arla, has so far offered no comment on the reports. As Europe’s largest dairy group, it produces 7 billion litres of milk a year and records annual turnover in region of €5bn (US$4.3bn).