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Danone rubbishes Yakult shareholding increase rumours

By Mark Astley , 04-Feb-2013
Last updated on 04-Feb-2013 at 14:46 GMT

Danone has dispelled rumours that it is seeking to increase its stake in Yakult – declaring that it has no plans to mount a “hostile bid” for the Japanese company.

Last week, Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei reported that the French dairy giant had denied intentions to increase its current interest in Yakult.

Danone currently holds a 20.02% stake in Yakult – making it the largest single shareholder of the company. A recently-expired agreement between the two companies has, however, previously prevented Danone from increasing this stake.

According to Nikkei, Danone instead favours the establishment of a “mutually beneficial relationship” with Yakult - despite the door now being open to increasing its stake.

DariyReporter.com approached Danone regarding its interest in Yakult.

In a generic statement, Danone spokeswoman, Agnes Berthet-d’Anthonay said: “Danone confirms there will be no hostile bid for Yakult.”

Tokyo-based Yakult confirmed, however, that talks between itself and Danone are on-going.

“Alliance” discussions on-going

Speaking with DairyReporter.com, a spokesperson for Yakult revealed that the two firms are currently discussing the establishment of a new “alliance.”

“We still continue discussions with Danone relating to the alliance relationship in order to reach a best conclusion to both parties. Yakult and Danone agreed to spend more time for the discussions,” said the spokesperson.

“We have nothing to share with you at this point, however, we will report in a timely manner once we have something to be disclosed,” the spokesperson added.

Danone 20% stake cap expired

Danone first took a stake in Yakult in 2000. Following that, Danone and Yakult entered in a “strategic alliance.”

Under the March 2004 deal, Yakult and Danone agreed to establish joint ventures in India and Vietnam, and Danone nominated two candidates to Yakult’s board of directors.

Danone also agreed not to increase its shareholding of Yakult beyond its 20.02% interest for five years.

In May 2007, the companies agreed to extend the shareholding cap for a further three years. This agreement, which expired in 2012, has yet to be extended.

Reports regarding Danone’s intentions towards Yakult have been rife since the expiration.

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