General Mills Inks Deal for Majority Stake in Yoplait

The food manufacturer will pay 810 million euros, or about $1.15 billion, for a 51 percent controlling interest in the yogurt maker.

After months of speculation and negotiations, General Mills, Inc., has signed a definitive agreement to acquire a 51 percent controlling interest in well-known yogurt maker Yoplait.

The Golden Valley-based food giant will pay 810 million euros (or approximately $1.15 billion) for the stake, and the deal includes a 50 percent stake in the entity that owns Yoplait and related brands.

General Mills bought the stake from Paris-based private equity group PAI Partners. Paris-based dairy cooperative Sodiaal owns the remaining 49 percent stake in Yoplait.

The deal is expected to close during the first quarter of General Mills' 2012 fiscal year, which begins May 30. The transaction is pending regulatory approval.

General Mills and Sodiaal said that they'll work together to support worldwide growth of Yoplait. The two companies aren't strangers. General Mills has licensed the Yoplait brand since 1977 and is currently the brand's largest licensee.

Yoplait products are now available in more than 70 countries-and Yoplait employs about 1,900 people.

General Mills said in March that it had entered into “exclusive negotiations” to buy a 50 percent stake in Yoplait. Before that, there was fierce competition for the stake. General Mills remained tight-lipped about the possibility of buying Yoplait, but Bloomberg reported in February that it was among the leading bidders for the stake-which nine companies were vying for.

Citing “people familiar with the process,” Bloomberg reported in February that General Mills and Vevey, Switzerland-based NestlŽ, SA, both submitted offers valuing Yoplait at about 1.6 billion euros-roughly double the amount that General Mills plans to pay for the 51 percent stake.

Yoplait has a 6 percent share of the world's yogurt market and is the second-largest yogurt brand. Its revenues for the fiscal year that ended in June 2010 totaled about $1 billion.

General Mills is Minnesota's eighth-largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $14.8 billion during its most recently completed fiscal year.