Canadian Manufacturing

Saputo's rival boosts offer in bid for Australian dairy processor

Murray Goulburn Co-operative is now offering $505-million for Warrnambool Cheese & Butter



MONTREAL—Saputo’s battle to acquire an Australian dairy processor heated up again when its main rival trumped the Canadian cheese giant’s bid with a new leading offer.

Murray Goulburn Co-operative is now offering AUD$9 per share or AUD$505-million, which is 20 per cent higher than its first bid and 12.5 per cent greater than Saputo’s latest offer.

The dominant Australian dairy processor said the merger with Warrnambool Cheese & Butter would allow it to become “uniquely positioned with scale and capacity to capture the unfolding long-term opportunity in international dairy markets.”

However, it needs the approval of Australia’s competition regulator because it would control more than 40 per cent of the market by adding Warrnambool’s 10 per cent.

Murray Goulburn’s bid is double what Warrnambool’s shares traded at Sept. 11, which as just prior to the initial offer by Bega Cheese Ltd. that lead to the three-way bidding war.

In addition to regulatory approval the firm, which owns about 18 per cent of Warrnambool’s stock, would need to win support from a majority of shareholders.

Montreal-based Saputo didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the latest bid.

Saputo’s prior offer won unanimous support from Warrnambool’s board, in the absence of a superior offer.

Warrnambool urged its shareholders not to take any action on the new Murray Goulburn bid until it can study the offer.

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