PAI Considers Yoplait Stake Sale

(Reuters) – PAI Partners is open to potential offers for its 50 percent stake in French yoghurt maker Yoplait, a spokesman for the private equity firm said on Wednesday.

Sodiaal, France’s largest milk cooperative, might also be prepared to sell part of the 50 percent it holds in Yoplait to reduce debt tied to the acquisition of French cheese group Entremont, French daily La Tribune had reported earlier.

“PAI is open to offers and is listening to bankers carefully”, the PAI spokesman said, confirming the report in La Tribune. Sodiaal had no immediate coment.

Yoplait, the maker of “Petits Filous” yoghurts for kids, is valued at between 1 billion and 1.2 billion euros ($1.29-$1.55 billion), La Tribune said.

The group, which operates internationally through a franchise network, had 2009 revenue of 3.8 billion euros and a gross operating profit of 120 million, it said.

The sale could draw interest from food giants such as Nestle (NESN.VX), General Mills (GIS.N) — which distributes Yoplait products in the United States — Scandinavia’s Arla Foods or Asian food groups, the paper said.

Private equity firms such as AXA Private Equity, Permira [PERM.UL] or BC Partners [BCPRT.UL] could also show interest, the paper added. (Reporting by Julien Ponthus and Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Michael Shields) ($1 = 0.7748 euro)