WCB seen as attractive asset for dairy processors targeting Asia

WCB seen as attractive asset for dairy processors targeting Asia

Murray Goulburn's bid to buy fellow Australian dairy processor Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory will be put before a public hearing in February by the country's competition regulator.

WCB said today (5 December) Australia's Competition Tribunal had "provisionally" set 10 February as the date on which it would hold the hearing into Murray Goulburn's A$9.50-a-share offer.

Murray Goulburn's bid is the highest of three on the table for WCB. However, its offer is dependent on authorisation from the Tribunal.

WCB has questioned Murray Goulburn's previous offers on the basis its suitor needs competition approval. It is still reviewing the company's latest offer, made last week.

It said there had been no indication when the Tribunal would make a decision on Murray Goulburn's bid, which could be "between three and six months" after the company filed the offer. That puts a potential decision as far back as 29 May.

Of the two other offers on the table, earlier this week Canadian dairy giant Saputo saw its bid put on hold by Australia's Takeovers Panel after a complaint from Murray Goulburn.

The regulator has placed "interim orders" on Saputo's move for WCB after a complaint from rival bidder Murray Goulburn, the Australian dairy co-operative.

The orders mean Saputo must stop processing any acceptances for its lastest bid for WCB, which faced criticism from Murray Goulburn. The move, which could last for up to two months, gives the Panel more time to consider the offer, it said.

Last week, Saputo increased its bid for WCB to A$9.20 a share - should it attain more than 50% of the business.

Murray Goulburn challenged the offer, pointing to the withdrawal of plans to offer WCB's shareholders special dividends.

The third bidder, Australian dairy business Bega Cheese, made its "final" cash-and-shares offer on 14 November.