The three-way battle for takeover target Warrnambool Cheese and Butter has become even hotter, with suitor Murray Goulburn lifting its offer to $9.50.
Three companies are vying to take over WCB: Bega Cheese and dairy co-operative Murray Goulburn from Australia, and Canadian dairy giant Saputo.
Murray Goulburn’s revised offer of $9.50 in cash per WCB share surpasses the latest offer from Saputo of $9.00, plus an extra 20 cents if Saputo gains control of more than 50 per cent of WCB shares.
Murray Goulburn said on Thursday that its latest offer represented compelling value for WCB shareholders and delivered demonstrably superior value compared to competing proposals.
“Murray Goulburn remains firmly committed to acquiring WCB,” Murray Goulburn managing director Gary Helou said in a statement.
“A combined Murray Goulburn and WCB will create one of the largest Australian-owned food and beverage businesses and a globally competitive dairy foods company 100 per cent-controlled by dairy farmers.”
The WCB board had supported the Saputo offer, which could yield $9.20 if the 50 per cent threshold is met, in the absence of a higher bid.
Murray Goulburn also said it still wishes to explore the potential of WCB paying special dividends under its revised offer in order to deliver franking credit benefits to some shareholders.
“Murray Goulburn requests that the WCB board engage to enable this value to be delivered to some shareholders,” Murray Goulburn said.
Murray Goulburn’s offer of $9.50 is conditional upon Murray Goulburn attaining 50 per cent of WCB shares by the close of its offer.
Murray Goulburn’s prior offer was $9.00, which was revised from $7.50.
Bega has made a final offer of 1.5 Bega shares and $2 cash, worth $8.975 cased on the closing price of Bega shares on Wednesday.
When Bega started the takeover battle WCB in September, WCB shares were worth $4.51.
Meanwhile, Bega Cheese said on Thursday that it will appear before the Takeovers Panel in relation to the latest bid for WCB from Saputo.
On Wednesday, Murray Goulburn sought to stop Saputo acquiring shares in WCB via a Takeovers Panel application alleging that a recent change in the Saputo offer means some WCB shareholders were misinformed.
Referring to the Murray Goulburn application, Bega said on Thursday: “Bega Cheese has entered an appearance in respect of those proceedings, with a view to ensuring that its interests and those of its shareholders are properly represented before the panel.”
Share in WCB were in a trading halt at 1053 AEDT, having last trade at $9.25. Shares in Bega were 13 cents higher at $4.78.