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Bombay Burman’s cash reserves might be used to buy Danone’s stake in Britania

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Textiles-to-aviation conglomerate Wadia Group might use its cash reserves in group company Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation to buy French dairy major Groupe Danone’s 25.5 per cent stake in biscuit-maker Britannia Industries. Groupe Danone and the Wadia Group hold an equal stake in Associated Biscuits International Holding (ABIH), which in turn holds 51 per cent in Britannia Industries. Bombay Burmah holds shares in ABIH through a complex web of subsidiaries. Bombay Burmah’s latest annual report shows that the company has more than Rs 600 crore in consolidated reserves and surplus. “This could help in a big way in financing the acquisition of Groupe Danone’s share,” said company sources. A Wadia Group spokesperson declined to comment on the matter. At current stock prices on the Bombay Stock Exchange, Britannia Industries is valued at about Rs 3,900 crore. At market value, the cost of acquiring Danone’s shares will be about Rs 975 crore, though the Wadia Group is expected to acquire the shares at a discount. Both companies have been in discussions for the past seven months to untangle differences over issues that range from IPR issues in Britannia’s popular Tiger brand; a minority stake purchase by Danone in Bangalore-based nutraceuticals firm Avesthagen; and Danone’s application to the government to do business in India on its own. The two groups had met in London on September 3 but their talks were inconclusive. In July, Groupe Danone had agreed to sell its biscuits business globally to foods giant Kraft, excluding India and Latin America, where Danone has joint ventures. Groupe Danone is also expected to buy out the Wadia Group’s stake in another joint venture, Wadia BSN, a move that will pave the way for Danone going solo for its beverages and yoghurt operations in India. In late June this year, Groupe Danone executives had indicated that the company might exit Britannia Industries and stay out of the biscuits business by signing a non-compete agreement. An exit from Britannia would be preceded by dissolving Wadia BSN, formed in September 1995.

Posted by pp at 9:53 AM  

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