Carlyle-Backed Yashili Plans IPO

(Reuters) – Yashili Group Co Ltd, a Chinese infant baby food maker, in which global private equity fund Carlyle Group owns a 17.3 percent stake, plans to go public later this year, the Wall Street Journal said.

The initial public offering from Yashili will test investor confidence in China’s infant formula making industry, which is recovering from a food-safety scandal in 2008, in which six children died and thousands were hospitalised.

A Carlyle spokeswoman was not available for comment, while Yashili could not be reached for comment.

Yashili said in a separate statement that it appointed safety experts to help improve consumer confidence in its products. A six-person panel will be headed by Robert Brackett, a former director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

More than a dozen Chinese dairy firms including market leader China Mengniu Dairy Co (2319.HK) were found to have sold milk containing melamine during 2008’s tainted milk scandal, putting the Chinese government under pressure as families questioned poor quality controls. [ID:nPEK168904]

Still, there is strong investor interest in China’s $5-$6 billion infant milk formula market which is on course to become the world’s biggest shortly, overtaking the United States, the Journal report said quoting a study by Oppenheimer & Co.

U.S. buyout fund Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co and Hopu Investment Management Co are among those who have invested in China’s infant food industry.

Carlyle bought its stake in Yashili in September 2009 and the Journal reported said that the fund has invested at least $7 million more since the melamine scandal.

Yashili was established in 1998 but its business started in 1983 as a small workshop. (Reporting by Denny Thomas; editing by Keiron Henderson)