UPDATE 1-China’s Bright Food optimistic about Yoplait bid-report

* Competition “fierce”, capital not problem -executive quoted

* Bright Food has series of unsuccessful bids
(Adds banker comment, background)

SHANGHAI, March 4 (Reuters) – China’s Bright Food Group is
optimistic about its bid to buy a 50 percent stake in French
yoghurt maker Yoplait, a local newspaper reported on Friday
quoting a company executive.

Yoplait said last month that it had received nine preliminary
offers for the 50 percent stake in the world’s second-largest
yoghurt maker being sold by private equity group PAI Partners.

Chinese group Bright Foods made a preliminary offer of
1.8-1.9 billion euros ($2.5-2.65 billion), a source close to the
deal has said.

French media have reported other bidders included Mexican
group Lala, French cheesemaker Fromageries Bel SA (FROB.PA: Quote, Profile, Research),
French dairy group Lactalis, Swiss food producer Nestle SA
(NESN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research) and U.S. company General Mills Inc (GIS.N: Quote, Profile, Research).

Competition was “quite fierce” but the company was “serious”
about the deal as it steps up efforts to turn itself into a
global food group through mergers and acquisitions in the coming
five years, the China Daily quoted Bright Food Deputy General
Manager Ge Junjie as saying.

“Capital for bidding is not a problem for us, but we believe
the deal is very important for the company,” he told the paper.

A Bright Food spokesman declined to comment on the report.

General Mills and Nestle are among leading candidates in the
competition, Bloomberg reported last month, citing people
familiar with the process. [ID:nN28293145]

In January the state-backed, Shanghai-based Bright Food
walked away from talks to buy U.S. vitamin retailer GNC Holdings
Inc after failing to agree on a final price, according to a
source. [ID:nN21255906]

Last year it pre-empted an auction of Britain’s United
Biscuits with an offer of up to 2.5 billion pounds, according to
press reports. But talks crumbled when Bright Food failed to
match its high initial offer, a source said.

It has also lost a bidding war for Australian sugar refiner
CSR (CSR.AX: Quote, Profile, Research). [ID:nLDE6AH1VX]

Bright Food’s only known overseas acquisition was obtaining a
51 percent stake in New Zealand milk processor Synlait Ltd at the
end of 2010.

“Frankly they are a little naive right now. They tend to rush
in and stick a bid down without knowing how the process works,” a
banker working with the Chinese firm said.

But he added it was likely a matter of time before it makes
more successful bids.
(Reporting by Kazunori Takada, Samuel Shen and Stephen Aldred;
Editing by Jacqueline Wong)