UPDATE 2-Australian dairy takeover war heats up with fresh Bega offer

Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:15am EST
 
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* Bega raises bid to 1.5 shares and A$2 per WCB shr

* Bid values WCB below Murray Goulburn's $470 mln offer

* Lack of conditions gives Bega a head-start- analyst

* Canada's Saputo waits in wings (Adds comments from Warrnambool, links to graphic, factbox)

SYDNEY, Nov 14 (Reuters) - The hotly contested takeover battle for Australia's oldest dairy company got even hotter as its largest shareholder Bega Cheese Ltd raised its bid to $461 million and said it will not attach conditions to its offer like other suitors.

Bega and Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co Ltd, the biggest shareholders in Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Co Holdings Ltd (WCB), are locked in a three-way tussle with Canada's Saputo Inc for the 125-year-old dairy company.

WCB is being chased for its export connections to Asia, where demand for both for its basic dairy produce and high-tech milk extracts is surging.

"We needed to give the shareholders of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter a live option... the ability to accept an offer," Bega Chairman Barry Irvin said in a telephone interview on Thursday after the company announced its latest offer.

Bega raised its offer to 1.5 of its shares and A$2 cash for each WCB share from its initial offer of 1.2 shares and A$2 cash in September. At Wednesday's closing price, the offer is worth A$8.87 per share, or around A$496 million ($461 million).   Continued...