Wimm-Bill-Dann buys back stake from Danone for $470 million

Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods, the Russian dairy, food and juice company said yesterday that it will buy back 18.4 per cent stake in the company from French foods major Groupe Danone for $470 million.

Paris-based Danone had acquired the stake when Wimm-Bill-Dann's went public in 2002, and is now forced to sell it off to meet regulatory concerns after it announced a deal with Moscow-based Unimilk in June 2010.

The stake includes both local shares and ADRs. Wimm-Bill-Dann said that it will fund the transaction from existing resources and will not require additional financing.

''We are very pleased to announce the acquisition of Danone's stake in our company. This agreement represents the amicable conclusion of Danone's investment in our company, an investment Danone has held since our IPO in February 2002,'' said Tony Maher, CEO of Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods.

In June, Danone agreed to merge its Fresh Dairy Product businesses in the CIS area with Russian company Unimilk into a new entity, where Danone will hold 57.5-per cent stake, while Unimilk, Russia's second largest milk processor will hold a 42.5-per cent. (See: France's Danone merges dairy business with Russia's Unimilk) 

Founded in 1992, Wimm-Bill-Dann is the market leader in dairy products and children's food in Russia and one of the leading players in the market for non-alcoholic drinks in Russia and the CIS.

The company has more than 35 production facilities in Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia and employs more than 18,000 people. For 2009, Wimm-Bill-Dann reported sales of $2.2 billion and net income of $116.5 million.