French dairy giant Danone buys Denver-based WhiteWave Foods for $12.5 billion

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DENVER — French yogurt and dairy giant Danone announced plans Thursday to acquire organic food company WhiteWave Foods for about $12.5 billion — including debt.

Denver-based WhiteWave rival Hain rose 10 percent as well on hopes it could be the next food company to get gobbled up by a larger rival.

The Danone-WhiteWave deal comes just a week after Hershey revealed it had rejected takeover advances from Cadbury owner Mondelez. Many experts think Hershey could still be in play though.

Danone is buying WhiteWave at $56.25 a share, nearly a $9 premium over WhiteWave’s closing price of $47.43 on Wednesday.  Shares of WhiteWave surged nearly 20 percent on the news.

“We believe this is a compelling transaction that delivers significant cash value to our shareholders. … Danone is a great cultural fit for our organization and I am excited for our employees to benefit from the opportunities presented by joining Danone, a leading global food company and the ideal strategic partner to support our future,” WhiteWave CEO Gregg Engles said in a statement.

WhiteWave owns the brands Silk, So Delicious, Horizon, Alpro, Vega, Wallaby Organic, International Delight and Earthbound Farm. Danone has numerous brands, including Dannon, Activia, Actimel, Evian and Oikos.

WhiteWave generated $4 billion in sales in 2015, the company said.

“Together, WhiteWave and Danone will create a truly unique global leader committed to addressing tomorrow’s consumer trends by providing healthy and sustainable eating and drinking options,” WhiteWave said in a news release.