U.S. food company General Mills has won the bidding for a stake in Yoplait, and will pay 800 million euros ($1.1 billion) for 50 percent of a yogurt brand whose U.S. distribution rights it has long held.
Private equity fund PAI Partners and French dairy co-operative Sodiaal said on Friday they were in exclusive talks with General Mills. They did not give specifics on the timing of a final deal, nor how General Mills would finance it.
The announcement capped months of negotiations over Yoplait, the world's second-biggest yogurt brand after Danone.
The brand attracted bids from food groups including Mexican Groupo Lala, Swiss company Nestle, and Lactalis, Europe's largest dairy group.
Negotiations are in progress, and consultation procedures with the respective works' councils are being initiated, General Mills said.
The deal will create two structures -- an entity that holds the brand rights and a company that runs the operations.
General Mills will control the operational part with 51 percent ownership, while the brand entity is evenly divided.
The structure allows Sodiall to remain a shareholder, something it had long sought.
General Mills will partner with Sodiaal in expanding and growing the Yoplait brand and businesses in France, Europe and around the world, it said.
General Mills has held the license to Yoplait yogurt since 1977 in the United States, where its market share is 35 percent.
The deal provides an exit for PAI Partners, which first invested in Yoplait in 2002.
(Editing by Dan Lalor)