UPDATE 1-Australia's Murray Goulburn trumps Saputo with $470 mln WCB bid

Tue Nov 12, 2013 6:28pm EST
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* Murray Goulburn offers A$9/shr vs Saputo's A$8/shr

* Counter-bids from Saputo, Bega still likely - analyst

* WCB share open delayed; nearly doubled since initial Bega approach (Adds comments from company, analyst; share price; detail)

Nov 13 (Reuters) - Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co Ltd, the second-biggest shareholder in Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Co Holdings Ltd, raised its takeover offer for the Australian dairy company to A$505 million ($470 million), trumping Canada's Saputo Inc's bid.

Murray Goulburn, Saputo and top WCB shareholder Bega Cheese are locked in a three-way battle for WCB, banking on increasing Asian demand for its basic dairy produce and high-tech milk extracts.

"There's every reason to think Saputo and Bega will still stay in the game" despite the soaring price, said Shannon Rivkin, director at Rivkin Securities in Sydney.

Shares in WCB, which have almost doubled since Bega kicked off the bidding war in September, were on a delayed open after closing at A$8.54 on Tuesday. Bega shares rose as much as 5.3 percent early on Wednesday.

Murray Goulburn's A$9 per share cash bid for WCB is a 20 percent increase on its earlier offer and a 12.5 premium to Saputo's offer.

"(Murray Goulburn), when combined with WCB, will be uniquely positioned with scale and capacity to capture the unfolding long-term opportunity in international dairy markets," Murray Goulburn Chairman Philip Tracy said in a statement on Wednesday. "The combined company will keep profits in Australia and return them to local farmers under the co-operative's objectives of maximising farm-gate returns."   Continued...