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Fonterra scotches speculation of US$450 mln Indian buy

Fonterra scotches speculation of US$450 mln Indian acquisition

By Paul McBeth

Nov. 21 (BusinessDesk) - Fonterra Cooperative Group, the world's biggest dairy exporter, has dismissed speculation the company is among potential bidders for India's Tirumala Milk Products.

The New Zealand cooperative scotched a Times of India report naming it with French food conglomerate Danone as vying for a controlling stake in Hyderabad-based Tirumala, with a spokesman for the dairy exporter calling it "rubbish". The US$450 million enterprise value figure reported would be material for Fonterra and would need to be disclosed, he said.

Global private equity firm Carlyle Group, which holds 20 percent, and Tirumala's five other owners have reportedly short-listed three investment banks to run the sale. The founders are expected to keep minority stakes.

Tirumala is the second biggest private supplier of liquid milk in India's southern states, with turnover of 117.5 billion rupees, or NZ$2.61 billion at today's exchange rate of 44.98 rupees per New Zealand dollar.

It processes 1.6 million litres of milk a day in a string of plants across India's southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka.

India is the world's biggest dairy supplier, accounting for some 16 percent of total production, according to the National Dairy Development Board. The bulk of that is consumed domestically.

Last year, Fonterra embarked on a plan to look at the feasibility of farming in India as part of a government-led drive to forge closer ties with the world's tenth biggest economy.

Since then, the dairy exporter has identified rapidly growing emerging markets as a strategic target, and has saddled India alongside China in the new management structure.


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