UPDATE 1-Saputo makes final, sweetened Warrnambool offer after regulatory probe
* Saputo bid to rise as high as $492 mln on 90 pct acceptances
* Offer is final, deadline extended to Jan. 10
* Saputo leading rivals Murray Goulburn, Bega in race
By Jane Wardell
SYDNEY, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Canada's Saputo Inc stepped up its bid for Australia's Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Holdings Co on Tuesday, aiming to knock out its rivals with a final sweetened offer after receiving a regulatory rap over the knuckles.
Saputo's unconditional cash offer of A$515 million ($461 million) for Australia's oldest dairy company will rise as high as A$549 million ($492 million) if it receives acceptances of 90 percent or more of Warrnambool shareholders.
That looks tough on paper given takeover rivals Bega Cheese Ltd and Murray Goulburn collectively own about 35 percent of Warrnambool shares, while Japanese beverage giant Kirin Holdings Co Ltd holds a further 10 percent.
But analysts say Saputo's offer - now rising from A$9.00 to A$9.20 on 50 percent acceptances, A$9.40 on 75 percent acceptances and A$9.60 on 90 percent acceptances - is the clear frontrunner as Murray Goulburn is hamstrung by regulatory hurdles and Bega's offer lags on price.
"In my view it means Murray Goulburn's offer is now not good enough," said Shannon Rivkin, director of Rivkin Securities. "They probably have to come back with an increased offer if they want to stay in the game, otherwise they have to accept the their fate and probably even sell to Saputo." Continued...