Danone Raises Its Stake in Wimm-Bill-Dann to 18.4%

29 Jun 2007 • by Natalie Aster

Groupe Danone SA, the world's largest yogurt maker, increased its stake in OAO Wimm-Bill-Dann as it boosts its presence in Russia's dairy market, reported The Bloomberg.

Danone acquired 4.6 percent of Wimm-Bill-Dann, raising its stake to 18.4 percent, the Paris-based company's spokeswoman Maire Ginhoux said today. Wimm-Bill-Dann, Russia's biggest dairy producer, added Danone Vice President Jacques Vincent to its board on June 27.

Danone aims to buy milk and dairy producers in developing markets as yogurt consumption increases, Chief Financial Officer Antoine Giscard d'Estaing said this year. The company categorizes Russia along with China, Mexico, Indonesia and the U.S. as its ``new frontier'' markets with high growth potential.

``Wimm-Bill-Dann is a key player on Russia's dairy market and has very good results,'' Danone said in an e-mailed statement. ``Danone has shown its confidence by regularly increasing its investment during the last four years. Our objective is to contribute to Wimm-Bill-Dann's success.''

The two companies complement each other, with Danone catering to urban consumers and Wimm-Bill-Dann selling more traditional products in Russia's provinces, the French food maker said.

Moscow-based Wimm-Bill-Dann, which makes more than 1,000 different dairy products and about 150 varieties of juices, nectars and non-carbonated drinks, said on March 28 sales climbed 26 percent last year to $1.76 billion. The Russian company expects to grow at the same pace this year.

Wimm-Bill-Dann Chairman David Yakobashvili this month forecast that Russia's dairy market will expand an annual 15 percent to 20 percent in coming years.

Shares of Danone rose 24 cents, or 0.4 percent, to 58.99 euros at 1:05 p.m. in Paris. Shares of Wimm-Bill-Dann added 2.4 percent to $93.91 yesterday in New York.