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Rediff.com  » Business » Tiger issue tamed, Wadias get Britannia from Danone

Tiger issue tamed, Wadias get Britannia from Danone

April 15, 2009 01:40 IST
French dairy major Groupe Danone and Mumbai-based Wadia Group on Tuesday gave the finishing touches to a pact to end their 13-year-old joint venture for running Britannia Industries, India's largest food products firm. With it, they buried their bitter intellectual property disputer over the Tiger brand.

Danone is now free to pursue its business interests in India on its own.

Wadia Group and Danone owned 25.48 per cent each in Britannia through Associated Biscuits International Holdings, a London-based company. This company, in turn, owns 50.96 per cent in Britannia. Leila Lands, a Mauritius-based investment firm and wholly-owned subsidiary of Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation, a Wadia Group company, will buy the Danone stake, giving the Wadias complete control.

Wadia Group was not forthcoming on the price of the transaction, its spokesperson only said that it was close to the current market price. Based on Britannia's stock price of around Rs 1,450 a share on the National Stock Exchange, the transaction could be between Rs 800 crore and Rs 900 crore.

"Danone has sold its 50 per cent interest in ABI Holdings (held through Britannia Brands Limited) to Wadia Group. ABI Holdings holds an effective 50.96 per cent interest in Britannia Industries. This Agreement also sees an end to the intellectual property dispute over brand Tiger between Danone and Britannia," said a statement by Wadia Group.

Both companies have been in discussions to resolve differences over issues that range from intellectual property, and a minority stake purchase by Danone in Bangalore-based nutraceuticals firm Avesthagen, to Danone's application to the Indian government to do business in India on its own.

A case is open before a court in Singapore over the IPR issue after Danone allegedly used the Tiger brand to sell biscuits in certain global markets without the Wadias' permission. Britannia had said Danone had registered the Tiger brand in 70 countries without its consent. Wadia Group was not forthcoming on the contours on how the IPR issue would be resolved.

Danone's move to exit the biscuits business in India comes more than a year after it globally sold its biscuits business to Kraft to focus on the dairy and water businesses.

For Wadia Group, the agreement constitutes a significant strengthening of its position in Britannia.

"Thirteen years of collaboration between Wadia Group and Groupe Danone in Britannia helped build a strong and respected leader in the Indian biscuits industry. We are fully confident that Britannia will continue to be highly successful in the future. Danone is more keen than ever to contribute to the development of the healthy food market by implementing Danone brands in India in the coming years," said Franck Riboud, CEO of Groupe Danone.

Nusli N Wadia, chairman of Britannia Industries, said, "Wadia Group is pleased with this acquisition. Over the last nine decades, Britannia has created a rich heritage of brands and a strong corporate reputation which has seen several ownership changes. In the last few years, the trajectory of investment and growth has accelerated, making Britannia one of the fastest growing companies in India. The Company is led and managed by a competent team of professionals, who will continue to explore profitable growth opportunities in food -- both in India and overseas."

BS Reporter
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