UPDATE 1-Canadian dairy producer Saputo eyeing further buys

Thu Feb 6, 2014 4:42pm EST
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By Rod Nickel

Feb 6 (Reuters) - Canada's largest dairy producer Saputo Inc , which recently won control of Australian dairy Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Company, is hungry for further acquisitions in that country, as well as in New Zealand, Brazil and the United States, Chief Executive Lino Saputo Jr. said on Thursday.

Saputo gave no indication that further big purchases are imminent, however, noting that the company had considered a play for Warrnambool for the past 10 years.

"Now with Warrnambool, we have a strong, solid platform in Australia, perhaps there could be other small, tuck-in businesses in Australia," Saputo said on a conference call to discuss quarterly results.

Saputo's shares finished up 79 Canadian cents, or 1.5 percent, at C$52.68 in Toronto.

Saputo won majority control in January of Warrnambool, trumping separate approaches from WCB's two largest shareholders, Australian-based Bega Cheese Ltd and Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co Ltd.

The acquisition expands Saputo's operations beyond Canada, the United States and Argentina, giving it a platform to tap growing Asian demand.

Japanese beverage giant Kirin Holdings Co Ltd, which owns a 10 percent stake in WCB through its local unit Lion, poses the last hurdle for Saputo to take full control of Warrnambool.   Continued...