UPDATE 2-Kirin holds on as Murray Goulburn exits Warrnambool bid

Thu Jan 23, 2014 3:06am EST
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* Murray Goulburn sells 18 pct stake to Canada's Saputo

* Acceptance triggers rise in offer to A$9.40/share

* Kirin last major holdout with near 10 pct stake

* Kirin says "no current intention" to sell

By Maggie Lu Yueyang

SYDNEY, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Australia's Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co Ltd agreed to sell its 17.7 percent stake in Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Co Holdings Ltd to rival bidder Saputo Inc, finally bowing out of the hotly contested bidding battle.

Murray Goulburn's capitulation cleared another hurdle for Saputo to take over Warrnambool, which is seen as a platform for the Canadian dairy maker to tap growing demand in Asia for both traditional dairy products and high-tech milk extracts.

Eyes are now on Japanese beverage giant Kirin Holdings Co Ltd, which holds a 10 percent stake in Warrnambool through its local unit Lion and has an important cheese making and packaging partnership.

A Lion spokesman said the company has no plan to accept Saputo's offer, posing as the last hurdle for the Canadian company to take full control of Warrnambool.   Continued...