Yoplait shareholders reject Lactalis takeover offer

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The two owners of dairy food company Yoplait on Thursday said they have rejected a 1.4-billion-euro (1.9-billion-dollar) takeover offer from Lactalis, another French dairy producer.

Stakeholders Sodiaal, an agricultural cooperative, and investment group PAI said in a statement "the price proposed by Lactalis reflects neither the intrinsic and strategic value of Yoplait nor its growth prospects."

Sodiaal also said it wanted to remain a long-term shareholder in Yoplait.

Lactalis, which markets President cheese and Lactel Milk, said later it was prepared to negotiate with the two groups.

"Every time there is an offer the target says 'No' right away -- it's classic," a Lactalis spokesman told AFP.

"Negotiations are certainly possible. We are going to negotiate," he added, without saying if the company was prepared to increase its offer.

Lactalis said Wednesday it had made an offer to buy 100 percent of Yoplait, the world's second-biggest dairy food producer, aiming to create another French global champion.

With Swiss Nestle and US giant General Mills, which has made and distributed Yoplait products in the United States for nearly three decades, seen as other possible investors, Lactalis touted its as the only one that would leave Yoplait in French hands.

Lactal is based in the agricultural region of Brittany, northwestern France.

Yoplait is present in 50 countries and employs 1,500 people, 1,300 of them in France, and has global sales of about 3.5 billion euros, second only sector-leader Danone.

Lactalis said "only majority control of the capital in Yoplait would allow implementing a durable strategy."

Lactalis generated 8.5 billion euros in sales last year and employs 38,7000 people, including 15,800 in France.

© 2010 AFP

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