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French company to remain biggest shareholder with 7% stake
Yogurt maker had earlier sought to increase Yakult holding
Danone is selling about $1.8 billion worth of shares in Japan’s Yakult Honsha Co. as an activist investor pushes the world’s largest yogurt maker to boost its returns.
Danone didn’t comment on what it plans to do with the proceeds. Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel Faber has been trying to breathe new life into Danone’s largest business, yogurt and fresh dairy, as sales suffered from tougher competition and marketing missteps. The Paris-based firm acquired soy-milk maker WhiteWave for $10 billion last year as it seeks to branch out into faster-growing organic food and drinks.
The stake reduction will bring Danone more financial flexibility and allow management to focus more on its core business, Oberhuber said. It’s an ideal time to reduce the stake as Yakult shares have gained 29 percent in the past year, he added.
Danone rose as much as 1.4 percent early Wednesday in Paris.
Yakult will offer as many as 24.6 million shares held by its biggest shareholder in a secondary sale, including over-allotment, the Japanese company said in a statement.