Saputo wins majority control of Australia’s Warrnambool

Sydney, Australia | Reuters — Canada’s Saputo said Wednesday it has secured majority control of Australia’s Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Co., putting pressure on rival bidder Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co. to concede defeat.

Saputo said it had increased its shareholding in Australia’s oldest dairy maker to 52.7 per cent, giving it control after a months-long battle aimed at tapping growing demand in Asia for both traditional dairy products and high-tech milk extracts.

Murray Goulburn said it would “commercially assess” its 17.7 per cent shareholding, noting that Saputo’s offer rises to A$9.20 per share from the base A$9 per share, or A$515 million (C$497.8 million), having reached the 50 per cent threshold.

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Saputo’s offer will rise again to A$9.40 per share on 75 per cent acceptances and A$9.60 per share, or A$537 million, on 90 per cent acceptances. That top level puts it above Murray Goulburn’s A$9.50 per share, or A$532 million, offer, but that is conditional on both acceptances of 50 per cent and regulatory approval that is not due until next month.

Former rival bidder Bega Cheese Ltd. gave Saputo’s offer a leg-up last week when it sold its 18.8 per cent stake to the Montreal company.

The Saputo offer, scheduled to close Wednesday, is automatically extended to Feb. 4 after reaching the control threshold.

— Reporting for Reuters by Maggie Lu Yueyang and Jane Wardell.

Related stories:
Saputo nearing majority control of Australian dairy firm, Jan. 17, 2014
Saputo making white-knight play for Australian dairy firm, Oct. 7, 2013

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