General Mills Inc. and Nestle SA are among leading bidders for the 50 percent stake in yogurt maker Yoplait being sold by PAI Partners, four people familiar with the process said.
Nestle and General Mills submitted offers valuing Yoplait at about 1.6 billion euros ($2.2 billion), one of the people said. A final bidder may be selected in the next few weeks, said the people, who declined to be identified because the process is private. Axa Private Equity is the only remaining buyout firm in the race, three of the people said.
Yoplait shareholders Sodiaal and PAI earlier this month said nine companies, both French and foreign, had made indicative offers for the asset. PAI Partners and Sodiaal said they would consider the bidders’ plans to expand Yoplait in markets where the brand has little or no presence, such as China, India and Latin America.
There has been speculation about whether French authorities will intervene in an attempt to promote a French buyer, one of the people said.
Nestle’s Nina Backes and General Mills spokesman Tom Forsythe declined to comment. An official at Axa Private Equity couldn’t immediately comment.
Bright Dairy & Food Co. submitted the highest offer, though it remains uncertain whether the Chinese company will be able to gain final approval from its authorities, one of the people said. The Shanghai-based company’s bid values Yoplait at about 1.7 billion euros, the person said.
Sodiaal, which founded Yoplait and owns the other half of it, doesn’t intend to sell its shares. Jacques Caillaud, a spokesman for Sodiaal, declined to comment.
Yoplait has grown to become the world’s second-largest yogurt brand by distributing products through General Mills in the U.S. and other partners around the world. The brand has a 6 percent share of the world’s yogurt market, which expanded 46 percent in the five years through 2010 to $65.2 billion, according to Euromonitor International.
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