General Mills Inc. is buying a controlling stake in yogurt company Yoplait from French investment firm PAI Partners and cooperative dairy group Sodiaal for about $1.15 billion.
The acquisition of the world's second-largest yogurt maker would build on General Mills' aim to increase its health and wellness product portfolio and expand operations in France, where it already produces several products.
It also increases its stake in yogurt, which it sees as a growing food category worldwide.
Under the deal announced Wednesday, General Mills will take a 51 percent stake in Yoplait SAS and a 50 percent interest in a related entity that holds the worldwide Yoplait brands. Sodiaal, based in France, will hold the remaining stakes in both entities.
General Mills, based in Minneapolis, has licensed the Yoplait brand from the French company for more than 30 years, helping it build into a top yogurt brand in the U.S., one Yoplait's largest markets. The companies have been in arbitration about the future of that license.
Yoplait reported revenue of about $1.03 billion for its most recent fiscal year. General Mills' was $14.8 billion.
"We see tremendous opportunities to work together to become a major competitive force in the development of global yogurt markets," Sodiaal and General Mills said in a joint statement.
General Mills Inc. expects the deal to close in its first quarter, which begins May 30.
Yoplait has helped offset some weakness in General Mills' core cereal business in its most recent quarter. General Mills, which makes Cheerios, Haagen-Dazs, Betty Crocker and other brands, has also been helped by sales overseas in recent periods.
General Mills shares fell 21 cents to $39.36 in morning trading Wednesday.