Saputo nearing majority control of Australian dairy firm

Canadian dairy giant Saputo said Friday its shareholding in Australia’s Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Holdings has jumped to 46.17 per cent, putting it close to majority control.

Former rival bidder Bega Cheese said Thursday it was selling its 18.8 per cent stake to Saputo, all but handing victory to the Quebec-based company in the battle for Australia’s oldest dairy firm.

Analysts expect hedge funds holding about 10 to 15 per cent of Warrnambool to join Saputo’s base A$515 million (US$460 million) bid, blocking another offer from Australia’s Murray Goulburn Co-operative.

Murray Goulburn, whose A$530 offer was conditional on both reaching 50.1 per cent and regulatory approval that is not due until next month, said it would consider the options for its 17.7 per cent stake.

A win for Saputo, whose offer rises to A$549 million if the company receives acceptances of 90 per cent or more, would end one of Australia’s most competitive takeover battles in recent years.

The battle reflects the huge interest in Australia’s agriculture assets amid surging demand from increasingly affluent southeast Asia. Warrnambool’s portfolio includes increasingly popular high-tech milk extracts, as well as traditional dairy products. — Reuters

Related story:
Saputo making white-knight play for Australian dairy firm, Oct. 7, 2013

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