UPDATE 1-Nestle may join Lactalis for Yoplait bid – report

* Joint bid with Lactalis favored option for Nestle – Figaro

* Yoplait valued at over 1.3 billion euros – Figaro

* Nestle declines to comment

* Lactalis officials not availale for comment

(Adds Nestle, Lactalis, detail)

PARIS, Nov 4 (BestGrowthStock) – Nestle (NESN.VX: ), the world’s
biggest food group, may team up with Lactalis, Europe’s largest
dairy group, to swallow French yoghurt maker Yoplait, which is
partly for sale, French daily Le Figaro reported on Thursday.

Nestle, which has plenty of firepower after the sale of its
stake in eyecare group Alcon (ACL.N: ), declined to comment while
Lactalis officials were not available for comment.

Unlisted Yoplait, which Le Figaro said was valued at over
1.3 billion euros, has been in the spotlight since co-owner
private equity fund PAI Partners said it wanted to sell its 50
percent stake.

The second Yoplait stakeholder, France’s largest milk
cooperative Sodiaal, has said it had no intention of reducing
its stake. Sodiaal was not immediately available for comment on
Thursday.

The sale is expected to draw interest from other food giants
such as General Mills (GIS.N: ), which distributes the Yoplait
brand in the United States, and Asian food groups.

Private equity funds are also tipped as possible buyers even
though seller PAI Partner told Reuters in September an
industrial player would be the most likely buyer.
[ID:nLDE6891II].

“The Swiss giant has two options. The favored option is an
alliance with Lactalis,” the paper said, citing “several
sources”.

The other option would be for Nestle to make its own bid.

Nestle has scaled down its yoghurt business in recent years
but might not want to miss the opportunity of buying a good
brand at a cheap price, analysts say.

Nestle put its European chilled dairy business into a joint
venture with Lactalis a few years ago. It also sold its
Australian yoghurt business to New Zealand’s Fonterra (FCGHA.NZ: )
in 2008.

Set up in 1964, Yoplait has grown to become the world’s
second-largest dairy products maker after French rival Danone
(DANO.PA: ) by operating internationally through a franchise
network.

It generated global sales of 4.5 billion euros in fiscal
year 2009-10 ended June 30, with nearly half coming from the
United States thanks to the General Mills licensing deal.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Additional reporting by Silke
Koltrowitz in Zurich; Editing by David Cowell and Jane Merriman)

($1 = 0.7071 euro)

UPDATE 1-Nestle may join Lactalis for Yoplait bid – report