UPDATE 1-Saputo hits back with $430 mln bid for Australia's Warrnambool

Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:30pm EDT
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* Saputo raises bid by 14 pct to A$8/share

* Trumps bids by WCB shareholders Bega, Murray Goulburn

* WCB directors recommend new Saputo bid

* WCB shares already above latest offer price

SYDNEY, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Saputo Inc, Canada's largest dairy producer, looked likely to triumph in the battle for Australia's Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Company Holdings Ltd (WCB) after hiking its bid by 14 percent to A$449 million ($430 million).

Saputo's A$8 per share offer trumps separate approaches from WCB's two largest shareholders, Australian-based Bega Cheese Ltd and Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co Ltd, and won a recommendation from WCB's directors.

"It's very close to what must be the final bid," said Mark Topy, senior industrials analyst at Canaccord Genuity, who expects Bega and Murray Goulburn to bow out of the battle.

"Price is almost immaterial for (Saputo) and they've got the most firepower."

Australian dairy and farm assets are attracting increased interest as companies ramp up their exposure to Asia's growing appetite for milk, cheese and other food products.   Continued...