Bright Food keen on Yoplait stake to grow business

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A Bright Food booth at a franchise show in Nanjing. The company is planning more overseas acquisitions while it is bidding for the French yogurt maker Yoplait. [China Daily]

Bright Food Group, China's leading food group, is optimistic about its bid to purchase a stake in France's Yoplait, an executive told China Daily on Thursday.

Although the competition is "quite fierce" among the bidders, the company is quite "serious" about the deal, the executive added.

Bright Food will accelerate steps to turn itself into a global food group through mergers and acquisitions in the coming five years, Ge Junjie, deputy general manager of Bright Food Group and also a national committee member of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said in an exclusive interview with China Daily on the sidelines of the CPPCC.

China Business News said Bright Food has entered the final round of bids for a 50 percent stake in the global yogurt maker. General Mills Inc and Nestle SA are among the other leading bidders for the Yoplait stake.

Bright Food's offer is said to be the highest at about 1.7 billion euros ($2.36 billion), according to a Bloomberg report quoting sources close to the matter.

"Capital for bidding is not a problem for us, but we believe the deal is very important for the company," he said.

Analysts said a successful bid for the stake could help the company to control premium dairy farms and assist Bright Food's expansion into the high-end market.

"By acquiring 50 percent share in Yoplait, Bright Food will have some control over the company, including its dairy farms. It is an effective way for Bright Food to secure the quality of its products and to strengthen its position in the yogurt market," said Zhou Jiaxing, an analyst from Guoyuan Securities.

The Shanghai-based Bright Food is a food industrial giant in China, and its business covers dairy, sugar, spirits and snacks.

In 2010, the company's sales were between $85 billion and $90 billion, and "are expected to exceed $100 billion this year if overseas deals are made," said Ge.

"The next five to 10 years will be the golden period for the internationalization of Bright Food. We aim to build it into a globally reputed food company by then," said Ge. "Nothing is impossible, but we are still at the starting point."

Bright Food will be expanding three major businesses - dairy, wines and sugar - overseas, and its target destinations include Australia, New Zealand, North and South America and Europe.

The company came into the limelight in the global market last year when it expressed an interest in buying assets of global giants such as Australia's CSR and the US nutritional product retailer, GNC.

But it didn't succeed in its overseas ambitions as it lost out to Singapore's Wilmar International last July for the sugar and biofuels unit of CSR and abruptly ended discussions with GNC and the UK-based United Biscuits.

After having gained knowledge and experience during the past year, the executive believes the company will succeed in overseas acquisitions this year.

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