Murray Goulburn makes fresh bid for Warrnambool, pressuring Saputo

Wed Nov 27, 2013 6:39pm EST
 
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SYDNEY Nov 28 (Reuters) - Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co Ltd unveiled an improved A$530 million ($480 million) cash offer for Australia's Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Co on Thursday, trumping an approved bid from Canada's Saputo Inc.

Murray Goulburn said the A$9.50 per share offer presented Warrnambool shareholders with "demonstrably superior value."

Warrnambool's board has so far backed an unconditional A$9 per share offer from Saputo that rises to A$9.20 if more than 50 percent of shareholders accept. Canada's largest dairy maker already has approval from Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board.

Murray Goulburn's offer is dependent on either approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or the Australian Competition Tribunal, a process that is expected to take several months.

The third bidder for Warrnambool, Bega Cheese Ltd, already has ACCC approval but is trailing with a final offer of A$2 cash and 1.5 Bega shares per Warrnambool share, currently valued at around A$9 per share.

Murray Goulburn on Wednesday asked the Australian Takeovers Panel to force Saputo to drop its latest revised offer, arguing that a decision to drop proposed dividends lowers the overall value of the bid.

The Saputo and Bega offers close in mid-December, so Murray Goulburn is fighting against the clock to persuade regulators that the benefits of its bid to create an Australian dairy champion outweigh competition concerns.

At stake is control of a key exporter of high-tech dairy products in demand in Asia.

($1 = 1.1007 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Jane Wardell; Editing by Stephen Coates)