Sino Land chairman Robert Ng Chee Siong yesterday defended his family's move to sell down a stake in Singapore-listed Yeo Hiap Sing (YHS) to French food and drinks giant Groupe Danone, saying the move would enhance shareholders' value. While the Ngs were one of the foremost property developers in East Asia, he conceded the family's strength was not in the food and beverage business and they could see the advantages of bringing in foreign expertise. Robert Ng, who became YHS chairman in 1995 after a fierce takeover battle, said: 'We always wanted to bring in very strong established partners'. Danone will acquire an initial 12.45 per cent YHS stake for S$100 million (about HK$488.57 million) from Orchard Parade Holdings, another Singapore-listed Ng family vehicle. It also has an option to increase its stake to 51 per cent within 18 months once YHS' property interests have been divested. Orchard Parade, like Sino Land, is part of the Far East Organisation regional property empire headed by Robert Ng's father, Ng Teng Fong. Robert Ng readily admitted Danone, Europe's third-largest food and beverage giant, knew the food and beverage business better. 'We realise there are such things as strategic alliances,' he said. 'They will bring in much expertise, bring a lot of value. Danone, which produces such famous brands as Evian, Kronenbourg and Volvic, has had a long relationship with YHS, which has been distributing a number of its products in the region for some time. Simon Israel, Danone's senior vice-president for Asia-Pacific, will now take a seat on the YHS board, with complete day-to-day running of the food and drinks business being transferred to Danone Asia once divestment of the firm's property interests to Orchard Parade is completed. The sale will lower Orchard Parade's gearing, which has worried some analysts. It also follows persistent market rumours of possible cash-flow problems and difficulties servicing debt within both the private and listed arms of the Far East, Sino and Orchard Parade business empire, which expanded aggressively in Hong Kong and Singapore ahead of the regional downturn. The family has repeatedly denied their firms might default on any of their debt.