Canada's Saputo wins majority control of Australia's Warrnambool

Tue Jan 21, 2014 6:06pm EST
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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Canada's Saputo Inc (SAP.TO: Quote) said on Wednesday it has secured majority control of Australia's Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Co Holdings Ltd WCB.AX, 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 percent, 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 percent shareholding, noting that Saputo's offer rises to A$9.20 per share from the base A$9.00 per share, or A$515 million ($453.33 million), having reached the 50 percent threshold.

Saputo's offer will rise again to A$9.40 per share on 75 percent acceptances and A$9.60 per share, or A$537 million, on 90 percent 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 percent and regulatory approval that is not due until next month.

Former rival bidder Bega Cheese Ltd (BGA.AX: Quote) gave Saputo's offer a leg-up last week when it sold its 18.8 percent stake to the Canadian company.

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

(Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang and Jane Wardell; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)