Exclusive-General Mills explores sale of $2 billion-plus yogurt business in North America, sources say

By Thomson Reuters Apr 26, 2024 | 1:24 PM

By Abigail Summerville

NEW YORK (Reuters) – General Mills, the maker of Cocoa Puffs and Cheerios breakfast cereals, is exploring a sale of its North America yogurt business including its popular Yoplait brand in a deal that could be worth more than $2 billion, people familiar with the matter said.

The Minneapolis-based food conglomerate is working with investment bank JPMorgan Chase to gauge interest from potential buyers that could include rival snack food makers and private equity firms, the sources said, requesting anonymity as the discussions are confidential.

General Mills is hoping to fetch a valuation for the yogurt portfolio of nearly 10 times the unit’s 12-month earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of about $250 million, the sources said.

General Mills and JPMorgan declined to comment.

Shares of General Mills have fallen about 19% over the past year to $71.04 on Friday, valuing the company at about $40 billion.

In March, General Mills topped market expectations for third-quarter sales and profit, boosted by higher prices for its breakfast cereals, snack bars and pet food products that helped cushion a blow from slowing consumer demand.

A group of French dairy farmers started Yoplait in 1964 and the company partnered with General Mills in 1977 through a franchise agreement giving the maker of Bisquick pancake mix the exclusive rights to market the brand in the U.S.

In 2011, General Mills acquired a 51% stake worth $1.2 billion in Yoplait from private equity firm PAI Partners and French dairy cooperative Sodiaal. Sodiaal retained the remaining stake.

In 2021, General Mills sold the European operations of Yoplait to Sodiaal. At the time, the company said its U.S. and Canada yogurt operations generated a combined $1.4 billion in net sales for fiscal 2020.

Having already shed the European unit of Yoplait, General Mills sees the remaining yogurt assets as non-core in its current strategy as it faces tough competition from market leaders Chobani and Danone’s Dannon brand, the sources said.

Yogurt manufacturers have been actively making deals over the past year. Campbell Soup is looking to divest the Noosa Yogurt unit, which it acquired as part of its $2.7 billion deal for Sovos Brands last year.

Danone sold its Wallaby yogurt and Horizon milk brands to Platinum Equity last year for an undisclosed amount.

(Reporting by Abigail Summerville in New York, additional reporting by Jessica DiNapoli; Editing by Anirban Sen and Richard Chang)