Saturday, July 23, 2005

Yogurt Fever

(Note: For background, see “Yogurt is a Strategic Industry”.)

Thursday, 14 July

Jacques Chirac: in the President’s annual Bastille Day interview alludes to “the risk of foreign capital taking control of French enterprises”.

Sunday, 17 July

According to Le Figaro, Michel Calzaroni, advisor to Danone CEO Frank Riboud, puts in “several calls to Parisian editorial offices” – including presumably Le Figaro’s. His message: “What Chirac said is very important. Several major firms are going to be the target of takeover bids and will pass into foreign control if one is not careful.” (source: Le Figaro) Le Figaro also reports that the previous week Frank Riboud had “made known his fears” about a possible PepsiCo bid for Danone to French Minister of the Economy Thierry Breton. Thereafter, as Le Figaro puts it, Riboud “spends a pleasant weekend at his house in the South-West.”

Wednesday, 20 July

Dominique de Villepin: “The Danone Group is one of the jewels of French industry and, of course, we are going to defend the interests of France.” (source: LCI)

Thursday, 21 July

Jacques Chirac: “I don’t want to comment on rumors in the financial markets, but, nonetheless, since it is a matter of a big French firm like Danone, I am, like the government, particularly vigilant and particularly mobilized.” (source: Le Figaro)

Thursday, 21 July (published)

Nicholas Sarkozy, interviewed by Le Monde: In case there is a hostile takeover bid for Danone, “the public authorities should do everything possible, along with the principal shareholders, including the Caisse des dépôts [a public bank], and mobilize their power of influence [capacité de conviction] in order to block the offensive”. (source: Le Monde)

Thursday, 21 July

Françoise Hollande, Socialist Party Chair: “There needs to be a mobilization of public and private actors: the banks, the Caisse des dépôts, certain private shareholders, and also the unions.” Hollande adds that “It needs to be made clear to possible buyers that they are not coming to friendly territory [en terrain favorable].” (source: Le Parisien via AFP)

Thursday, 21 July

Frank Riboud, CEO of Danone, at a press conference to announce the group’s mid-year results: “There has not been any contact. There is nothing – neither imminent, nor distant, neither official, nor unofficial – from anybody.” (source: Le Figaro)

On Thursday, following Frank Riboud’s remarks, the share price of Danone fell by 6% - n.b. despite the fact that Riboud at the same time announced better than expected results for the first half of 2005. During the previous two days, at the height of France's yogurt fever, the Danone share price rose by 16.5%.

According to several reports in the French media, Colette Neuville, President of the Association for the Defense of Minority Shareholders (ADAM), either has submitted or is preparing to submit (sources: Le Figaro and a complaint to the French Stock Market authorities, requesting that they investigate the possibility of a deliberate manipulation of the Danone share price.