Finance Finance News New local bid for Warrnambool Cheese
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New local bid for Warrnambool Cheese

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Australia’s largest dairy company, Murray Goulburn, is now offering over half a billion dollars to takeover rival company Warrnambool Cheese and Butter. 

The co-operative made the offer this morning, a day after Treasurer Joe Hockey gave approval to a rival bid by Canadian company Saputo.

Murray Goulburn’s original offer was $7.50 per share. It is now offering $9 per share, with Saputo offering $8 per share, while a third bid by Bega Cheese is offering cash and a share swap.

The board of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter has previously stated that it would support Saputo’s bid in the absence of any better offer.

In a statement, Murray Grmanaging director Gary Helou remains steadfast in his commitment to take over Warrnambool.

“MG remains firmly committed to acquiring WCB. “A combined MG and WCB will create a globally competitive dairy food company which will deliver many opportunities for Australian dairy farmers and their communities.”

The bidders:

Bega Cheese

Bega Cheese holds 18 per cent of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter and made the first offer for the company this year on September 12.

Bega Cheese chairman Barry Irwin says, “we’ll be delighted if we are able to successfully merge the companies, but equally we’ll be delighted if we just grow our shareholding in WCB and continue to pursue that bid into the future.”

Mr Irwin vowed to push on with the offer despite arejection from the WCB board, which suggested the bid was ‘highly opportunistic’ and ‘inadequate’.

If the Bega Cheese takeover bid is successful the company will become Australia’s largest dairy processor.

Mr Irwin has indicated Bega Cheese will consider revising its offer.

Saputo

Saputo is Canada’s largest dairy company and one of the world’s top 10. It has holdings in Canada, the United States, Germany, Argentina and Wales.

An Australian acquisition is considered a stepping stone for trade growth into Asia. Lino Saputo Junior, the chief executive of the Canadian dairy giant told PM, “we would see Warrnambool as a platform for growth in Australia and through which to expand in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The WCB board unanimously recommended their shareholders accept Saputo’s first bid in the absence of a stronger proposal.

The Canadian company’s second bid of $8.50 per share, was trumped by Murray Goulburn’s offer of $9 per share on the 13th November.

Saputo wants at least 50.1 per cent of all shares in Warrnambool Cheese and Butter.

Saputo has lodged an application for the takeover with the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Treasurer Joe Hockey approved Saputo’s bid on 12th November.

Saputo chief executive says the company has had an ongoing dialogue with WCB for more than ten years.

Murray Goulburn

Murray Goulburn’s first bid for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter was the third in two months.

Australia’s largest dairy company, Murray Goulburn, has become the third bidder for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter.

It currently has the highest offer for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter of $9 per share, valuing the company at $500 billion.

Murray Goulburn currently owns 17 per cent of WCB shares.

If successful in its bid, Murray Goulburn would create one of the five largest food and beverage businesses in the country.

Managing director Gary Helou says Murray Goulburn’s interest in buying Warrnambool Cheese and Butter stretches back several years.

Mr Helou says, “we believe our proposal is both competitive and financially compelling to WCB shareholders.”

The Murray Goulburn bid has now been bettered by a second bid from Saputo, although even the highest bid may not be enough to secure the deal for Murray Goulburn.

The company was forced to withdraw an offer three years ago when the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) suggested, in an initial report, that the deal could be anti-competitive.

Murray Goulburn has decided to bypass the ACCC for this current bid and instead take the case to the Competition Tribunal, a move that’s been described as unusual and a ‘test case’.

Kirin

The Japanese owned Kirin group has moved to secure a share of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, buying a 9.99 per cent stake in the company late in October.

Kirin is already a player in the Australian dairy sector, having bought dairy group National Foods in 2007 and merged it with Lion Nathan in 2009.

Kirin’s interest in WCB pushed shares in the Victorian processor to $9.30 on 29 October, well up on the previous record.