Danone, Wadia scrap partnership in Britannia

Danone, Wadia scrap partnership in Britannia

New Delhi: Ending a 13-year old association, the Wadia Group and Groupe Danone have terminated their joint venture in biscuit major Britannia Industries Ltd (BIL), with the Indian partner buying out the French food giant.

The two partners have also agreed to end their dispute over the intellectual property of BIL’s Tiger brand of biscuits.

In a joint statement, the two firms said Danone has sold its 50% interest in ABI Holdings Ltd (held through Britannia Brands Limited) to Wadia Group. ABI Holdings Ltd holds an effective 50.96% interest in Britannia Industries Ltd, a leading bakery company in India.

This agreement also sees an end to the intellectual property dispute over brand Tiger between Danone and Britannia, the statement added.

“(The) Wadia Group is pleased with this acquisition... The company (BIL) 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," Britannia Industries chairman Nusli N Wadia said.

The shares of Britannia Industries were last trading 2.53% up at Rs1,512.25 on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).

Groupe Danone CEO Franck Riboud said: “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."

Thirteen years of collaboration between the Wadia Group and Groupe Danone in Britannia helped to build a strong and respected leader in the Indian biscuits industry, he added.

By concluding this agreement, Groupe Danone is pursuing its strategy of divesting its biscuit activities and concentrating on its four strategic business lines, it said. The French firm is concentrating on areas, including dairy and pro-biotic products, in India.

For the Wadia Group, the agreement constitutes a significant strengthening of its position within Britannia, a company that is a model of profitable growth, the joint statement said, adding, the transaction would enable both the companies to further develop their position in the growing Indian market.

Early last week, after fighting for over four years, Groupe Danone and the Wadias had struck a deal clearing the way for the French food giant to exit from their biscuit joint venture, Britannia Industries Ltd.

In 2006, the Wadia group dragged Danone to court in Mumbai alleging the French firm’s stake in biotech firm Avesthagen had violated a non-compete clause in their joint-venture agreement.

Ever since, they were fighting over the IPR of the Tiger brand with Britannia Industries taking Danone to court in Singapore in 2007. The Indian biscuit maker had alleged that Danone had registered the Tiger brand as its own in nearly 40 countries.