Diversified foods giantGeneral Mills , Minneapolis, said it signed definitive agreements withPAI partnersandSodiaal to acquire a 51 percent controlling interest inYoplait S.A.S. and a 50 percent interest in a related entity that holds the worldwide Yoplait brands for approximately EUR 810 million.

Terms provide for Sodiaal, a French dairy cooperative, to hold the remaining ownership stakes in both entities. Headquartered in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, Yoplait is the second largest brand in the global yogurt market, a category with 2010 retail sales totaling approximately US $65 billion, officials said. Completion of the transaction is subject to regulatory approval. General Mills said it expects the transaction to close during the first quarter of its 2012 fiscal year, which will begin on May 30, 2011.

Yoplait products are available in more than 70 countries worldwide. The company has direct operations in countries including France, the United Kingdom and Canada, and also manages a network of 26 franchisees that license Yoplait brands. Yoplait employs approximately 1,900 people and reported revenues of EUR 724 million for its fiscal year ended June 30, 2010. In December 2010, Yoplait acquired the Liberté yogurt business in Canada. Liberté reported sales of CDN $186 million for its fiscal year ended December 31, 2010.

General Mills said the business will be governed by a supervisory board with representation from General Mills and Sodiaal. Chris O'Leary, General Mills' international executive vice president and chief operating officer, will manage the business at General Mills.

In a joint statement, O'Leary and Sodiaal International President Gérard Budin said that General Mills and Sodiaal intend to work together to support accelerated growth of Yoplait worldwide. They describe the global yogurt market as "one of the most attractive food categories in the world." Consumer demand is growing in response to increased interest in foods that emphasize nutrition, convenience, flavor variety and value. In addition, per capita consumption levels for yogurt are still quite low in many international markets.

"We see tremendous opportunities to work together to become a major competitive force in the development of global yogurt markets," they said.

General Mills and Yoplait have agreed that, upon closing of this transaction, the parties will formally withdraw from the current arbitration pertaining to the U.S. Yoplait license. General Mills will continue to market Yoplait yogurt in the United States under the license agreement.

PAI partners ("PAI") is a leading European private equity firm with offices in Paris, Copenhagen, London, Luxembourg, Madrid, Milan and Munich.

General Mills noted that it was advised in negotiations by Barclays Capital and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.