Danone to double Bright Dairy stake

GROUPE Danone, the world's largest yogurt maker, would more than double its stake in Shanghai-listed Bright Dairy & Food Co. to 9.7 percent after buying stock from two shareholders for 199 million yuan (US$24 million), Bright Dairy said in a statement Thursday.

Asian unit Danone Asia Pte. would become the third-largest shareholder of Bright Dairy when the sale is completed. Robert Schnurr, senior vice president for Danone Asia's dairy division, couldn't be reached for comment in Singapore because he was traveling. Paris-based Danone now has a 3.95 percent stake.

Danone Asia will buy 40 million shares, or a 3.85 percent stake, from Shanghai State-owned Assets Operation Co. for 121 million yuan, Bright Dairy's statement said. It will buy a 2 percent stake from Dazhong Transportation Group Co. for 78 million yuan, cutting Dazhong's stake to 1.85 percent.

China's demand for dairy products would expand 14 percent annually for six years as rising personal incomes bolstered milk and cheese consumption, Rabobank Groep forecast in November. Bright Dairy, which competes with China Mengniu Dairy Co. and Beijing Sanyuan Foods Co., posted average annual sales growth of 45 percent in the two years through 2003.

Bright Dairy reported profit last year rose 12.6 percent as the company increased its sales distribution network. Net income rose to 318 million yuan, or 0.31 yuan a share, from a revised 282.5 million yuan, or 0.43 yuan a share, a year earlier.

Earnings per share fell after outstanding stock increased to 1 billion shares from 651.2 million. Sales last year rose 13.5 percent to 6.8 billion yuan from a revised 6 billion yuan. The company plans to pay a dividend of 0.15 yuan for every 10 shares held.

Bright Dairy's shareholders would vote on the stake sale at a meeting April 6, the company statement said. The stock fell about 2.66 percent to 6.59 yuan in Shanghai on Thursday. The shares are down 3.8 percent this year.

Source: Shenzhen Daily-Agencies

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