General Mills Among Leading Bidders for Yoplait

The Golden Valley-based company submitted an offer valuing the yogurt manufacturer at $2.2 billion-the same price tag that NestlŽ cited in its bid.

General Mills, Inc., is among the leading bidders for a 50 percent stake in well-known yogurt manufacturer Yoplait, which is being sold by Paris-based PAI Partners.

But the company faces competition: Golden Valley-based General Mills and Vevey, Switzerland-based NestlŽ, SA, both submitted offers valuing Yoplait at about 1.6 billion euros (or $2.2 billion), according to Bloomberg, which cited “people familiar with the process.”

A final bidder may be selected within the next few weeks, the insiders reportedly said. Paris-based Axa Private Equity is the only remaining buyout firm in the race.

Paris-based dairy cooperative Sodiaal founded Yoplait and owns the other 50 percent stake in it, which Bloomberg said it does not plan to sell.

One of the insiders said that China-based Bright Dairy & Food Company submitted the highest offer-1.7 billion euros (or $2.35 billion) but there's uncertainty about whether the company will gain the necessary approval from Chinese authorities.

Another possible challenge in the bidding process: Some have speculated that French authorities will intervene in an effort to promote a France-based buyer. French dairy products company Fromageries Bel, SA, is among the companies that submitted a bid; it values Yoplait at about 1.2 billion euros (or $1.66 billion).

Last month, Yoplait shareholders Sodiaal and PAI said that nine companies had made offers for the Yoplait stake. They indicated that they would consider the bidders' plans to expand the Yoplait brand in markets where it doesn't have much of a presence-like China, India, and Latin America.

Representatives at General Mills and Nestle aren't talking about the bidding process.

According to Bloomberg, Yoplait has a 6 percent share of the world's yogurt market and is the second-largest yogurt brand.

In September, General Mills said that French dairy company Sodima-from which it has licensed the Yoplait trademark since 1977-wanted to terminate the licensing agreement between the two companies. General Mills said at the time that it would fight back and maintained that Sodima wasn't permitted to terminate the agreement.

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