(Removes references to story on Koza Ipek ruling, which has been withdrawn)
By Ceyda Caglayan
ISTANBUL, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Turkish food giant Yildiz Holding said on Friday it has sold a $400 million stake in biscuit maker Ulker to its London-based holding company, to which it has moved its core biscuit, chocolate and confectionery businesses.
Outside of Turkey Yildiz is better known for its international brands, which include Godiva chocolates and McVities’ biscuits.
Yildiz, which it says is the largest food manufacturer in central and eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, eventually plans to list the shares in Pladis, the UK holding company.
The sale of 21 percent of Ulker to Pladis for 1.4 billion lira ($398 million), leaving Yildiz with a 28.92 percent stake, comes a month after the shares of group companies, including Ulker, were hit by fears that Yildiz could be targeted in a government crackdown on businesses alleged to have links with Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.
More than 100,000 people have been suspended or sacked for suspected ties to a failed coup in July and 40,000 arrested. Authorities have taken control of hundreds of companies over alleged links to the cleric, which the government blames for the coup. Yildiz has previously said its businesses are “clean” and its conscience “clear”.
Shares in Ulker fell 3.8 percent to 16.91 lira in Istanbul on Friday, below the sale price of 19.5 lira.
Pladis has operations in 120 countries across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Americas. ($1=3.5140 lira) (Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by David Dolan, Greg Mahlich)