Yili Group, China’s largest dairy company, reportedly is preparing to bid $850 million for natural yogurt pioneer Stonyfield Farm, which is being sold by France’s Danone.
Two media reports out of Asia cited a statement Yili made to the Shanghai stock exchange. One of those reports also noted Dean Foods Co. may be preparing a bid, although no details were given.
Danone is selling Stonyfield, based in Londonderry, N.H., as part of an agreement with the Antitrust Div. of the U.S. Dept. of Justice, which required the divestiture so the French dairy company could buy WhiteWave for $10 billion. Danone has since completed that deal and combined the acquisition with its Dannon USA unit, calling the business DanoneWave.
The full name of the potential acquirer is Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group, apparently a state-owned company with sales of $9.3 billion in 2015. Those Asian media reports noted the offer would come just weeks after Yili dropped plans to acquire 37 percent of China Shengmu Organic Milk, the country’s largest organic producer, because of the Chinese government's anti-monopoly concerns.
The reports estimated Stonyfield sales at $370 million and said acquiring a premium Western brand – prized by many Chinese consumers – would be a feather in Yili's cap.