Danone and the Mumbai-based Wadia Group in April 2009 agreed to end their 13-year-old joint venture for running Britannia Industries for around Rs 900 crore. The relationship had turned sour during the preceding 18 months owing to a range of issues -- intellectual property rights over Britannia's 'Tiger' brand of biscuits, 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.
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, owned 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, bought out the Danone stake, giving the Wadias complete control.
Industry sources also indicate that along with the settlement to end the joint venture, Danone is understood to have paid out around Rs 20 crore as royalty over the IPR issue on the 'Tiger' brand of biscuits in an out of court settlement. Britannia had earlier stated that Danone registered the 'Tiger' brand of biscuits in various global markets without its (Britannia) consent and a legal case was filed in a Singapore court. The 'Tiger' brand is among the seven key ones for Britannia and is understood to be accounting for almost Rs 800 crore of the company's topline of Rs 3,800 crore.
After this split and settling the IPR issue, Danone is now actively beefing plans to expand its operations in India through a joint venture with Japanese firm Yakult to expand its dairy business. This equal joint venture has launched its probiotic health drink, Yakult, in select Indian markets -- New Delhi, NCR, Jaipur and Punjab -- and is planning an aggressive foray in other Indian metros soon.