Danone to sell US dairy subsidiary Stonyfield to Lactalis for $875 mn

French food group Danone SA today struck a deal to sell its US dairy subsidiary Stonyfield to Lactalis for $875 million as part of a deal with US antitrust regulator for approving its acquisition of US organic food group WhiteWave Foods Co.

In April the US Department of Justice (DoJ) approved Danone's $10.4-billion acquisition of WhiteWave subject to the French diary giant selling its US organic yoghurt business Stonyfield. (See: US regulator grants conditional approval to Danone-WhiteWave Foods merger)

The divestiture is part of the agreement reached on 31 March 2017 with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in connection with Danone's recently closed acquisition of WhiteWave, Dannone said in a statement.

The Paris-based company added that Stonyfield generated approximately $370 million in turnover in 2016.

The Stonyfield deal is expected to complete in the third quarter of this year.

The DoJ had filed a civil antitrust lawsuit to block the proposed Danone-Whitefield transaction, but also filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve its competitive concerns.

The DoJ said that the acquisition could hurt both organic milk sellers and buyers in the northeastern US because WhiteWave and longtime Danone partner CROPP Cooperative are the top purchasers of raw organic milk in the country.

''The proposed acquisition would have blunted competition between the top two purchasers of raw organic milk in the northeast and the producers of the three leading brands of organic milk in the United States,'' said acting assistant attorney general, Brent Snyder of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, Danone agreed to divest Stonyfield to an independent buyer approved by the US.  The DoJ said that the divestiture will sever Danone's and CROPP's strategic partnership thereby eliminating the entanglements between CROPP and the merged firm.

Founded by Samuel Kaymen in 1983, Stonyfield, is an organic yogurt maker. The New Hampshire-based company makes the number-one selling brand of organic yogurt and the number-three overall yogurt brand in the US.

It owns brands including YoBaby, YoToddler, YoKids and Oikos, and licenses its brand name to Organic Valley for its fluid milk. In 2001, Danone purchased an initial 40 per cent in Stonyfield and later increased its stake to 85 per cent.