With such well known brands as Yakult and Actimel amongst others, Yakult Honsha Co, Ltd (Japan) and Danone Group (France) are two strong leaders in the field of probiotic fermented products, the fastest growing segment in the fresh dairy industry worldwide.Yakult and Danone Group have reviewed and discussed their histories and strategies. With mutual respect of their corporate philosophies, both companies have formed a team that has started discussions for an alliance in the area of probiotics.The purpose of discussions is to strengthen their global leadership in probiotics and further accelerate the growth of the segment by leveraging on Yakult and Danone Group respective strengths. They will encompass both companies' marketing strategies, cooperation in R&D and other possible areas of synergies, cross-shareholdings, as well as possible exchange of directors in the future.Danone Group currently owns, directly or indirectly close to 5% of Yakult Honsha Co., Ltd's share capital, which it acquired in the stock market.With 1998 consolidated sales of 2.1 bn euros, Yakult Honsha had its origin in 1935 with the creation of Yakult by Dr. Shirota. It has developed as a leader in the field of dairy probiotics and derivatives, through brands such as Yakult, Joie or Mil Mil. The company has built over time a unique direct sales organization of more than 54,000 "Yakult" ladies in Japan and close to 28,000 ladies outside Japan, with a strong presence mainly in Asia and South America, through majority or minority-owned partnerships. The company is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.Groupe Danone is one of the world leaders in fresh dairy products, biscuits and water, with 1999 consolidated sales of 13.3 bn euros.