PAI Partners in 10x Yoplait exit

The Paris-based firm has sold its 50% stake in dairy products group Yoplait, brining the amount of capital returned to investors since 1 January to roughly €1.2bn.

PAI Partners has agreed to sell dairy products group Yoplait to General Mills, generating roughly a 10x return multiple, according to market sources.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but PAI is selling its 50 percent stake in Yoplait on the basis of a €1.6 billion valuation for the company. PAI acquired the company in 2002 from French dairy cooperative Sodiaal, which retained a 50 percent stake. Yoplait, which was generating approximately €53 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation when PAI made its investment in 2002, is projected to see EBITDA of roughly €153 million in 2011.

The sale of Yoplait was conducted via an auction that saw competing bids from firms including AXA Private Equity, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The second largest yoghurt maker worldwide after Danone SA, Yoplait owns manufacturing facilities in France and operates an extended franchise network in roughly 50 countries.

With the exit of Yoplait, PAI will have returned about €1.2 billion to its investors so far in 2011. The firm in January sold roughly 33 percent of its holdings in Chr. Hansen, a supplier of bioscience based ingredients to the food, health and animal feed industries.

PAI acquired four companies in 2010, including airport retailer The Nuance Group and European lingerie chain Hunkemöller. The firm’s recent realisations and acquisitions are further evidence of a return to activity following a turbulent period in 2009 that saw the abrupt departure of chief executive Dominique Megrét and a reduction in the size of PAI’s fifth fund, from €5.35 billion to €2.7 billion. PAI’s Fund V is approximately 60 percent invested.