Danone in talks to buy Wockhardt's nutrition business: report

French dairy major Groupe Danone (BN) SA is in advanced talks with India's Wockhardt to buy its nutrition business, The Economic Times reported yesterday, citing a an unidentified person.

Danone, the world's largest yogurt maker, may pay as much as Rs1,200 crore ($271 million) for Wockhardt's nutrition business, according to the newspaper.

Danone sources, however, declined to comment on what they termed "rumors."

Wockhardt had, in July 2009, agreed to sell its nutrition business, including its subsidiary Carol Info Services Ltd, to global healthcare major Abbott Laboratories, (See: Wockhardt sells its nutrition businesses to Abbott for $130 million - but the Rs625-crore deal had to be aborted after a group of investors holding 40 per cent of Wockhardt's foreign currency convertible bonds opposed the sale at the high court.

In January 2011, Wockhardt once again looked for suitors and pharmaceutical majors like Pfizer as well as Abbott and Danone lined up to enter into negations with Wockhardt.

Although the Mumbai-based company is believed to have received offers ranging from Rs1,365 to Rs1,455 crore, Wockhardt, led by its chairman Habil Khorakiwala, was rumoured to be seeking around Rs1,500 crore.

Wockhardt has a significant presence in India's paediatric nutritional category with Farex, Dexolac and Nusobee infant formulas, Farex weaning cereal and adult food supplement Protinex. The unit has two manufacturing facilities at Lalru and Jagraon in Punjab.

Danone is said to be keen to acquire Dumex India, a unit of Wockhardt's nutrition business, which has the Farex and Protinex brands. Wockhardt had acquired Dumex India from Royal Numico NV of the Netherlands