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TPG in advanced talks to invest in yogurt maker Chobani: NYT

Chobani Inc. founder Hamdi Ulukaya poses for a portrait in the company headquarters in New York, December 13, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Chobani Inc. founder Hamdi Ulukaya poses for a portrait in the company headquarters in New York, December 13, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

(Reuters) - Private equity firm TPG Capital LP is in advanced talks to invest in Chobani LLC, a maker of Greek yogurt, the New York Times reported on its website on Thursday, citing two unidentified people briefed on the matter.

TPG is now "apparently" the lead bidder, the newspaper said, adding that the structure of the potential investment has yet to be finalized and that the talks might not lead to a deal.

Spokespeople for Chobani and TPG declined to comment.

Chobani has been looking to sell a minority stake in a deal that could value the company at around $2.5 billion, Reuters reported first earlier this month, citing people familiar with the matter. The New York Times then reported, citing its own sources, that Chobani was considering selling a stake of 15 percent or less at a valuation of $5 billion.

Founded in 2005 by Turkish immigrant Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani started operating from a former Kraft Food yogurt plant in South Edmeston, New York, and grew into one of the top-selling Greek yogurt brands in the United States.

The company suffered a blow in September after it was forced to recall moldy cups of Greek yogurt following complaints by customers that the product tasted runny and fizzy, and some reported illnesses.

In December, Whole Foods Market Inc said it would no longer sell Chobani yogurt starting early this year.

Greek-style yogurt, which is thicker, creamier and often higher in protein than other types of yogurt, now makes up more than 40 percent of the U.S. yogurt market, which is worth $7.4 billion according to research firm Mintel

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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