Saputo has won over WCB shareholders representing over half the business

Saputo has won over WCB shareholders representing over half the business

Saputo has secured control of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory after winning the backing of shareholders representing over half the Australian dairy processor.

The Canadian dairy giant said last night (21 January) it held 52.702% of WCB after more of the company's investors backed its offer.

Saputo passing the majority threshold is a blow to rival bidder Murray Goulburn, the Australian dairy co-op. Murray Goulburn holds a 17.7% stake in WCB. Reacting to the news, Murray Goulburn said it would "commercially assess" Saputo's offer.

Now Saputo's ownership of WCB has passed the 50% mark, the group will, as set out in its bid statement, raise its offer from A$9 per share to A$9.20 per share. Ultimately, if over investors representing over 90% of WCB shares back Saputo's bid, the offer rises to A$9.60 a share.

Saputo's offer has also automatically been extended by 14 days and will close on 4 February.

The takeover battle for WCB was kicked off in September last year when Bega Cheese launched an offer for the Australian dairy firm. Bega subsequently dropped its bid to take control of WCB and accepted Saputo's offer, tendering its 18.8% stake in the company.

Murray Goulburn's offer is worth A$9.50-a-share. However, its bid is subject to competition approval. A competition hearing is scheduled for February but the regulator had suggested it could take "between three and six months" to make a final decision.

Among other significant stakeholders Kirin Holdings, the Japanese food and drinks group, holds a 9.99% stake in WCB. It made the investment soon after the takeover battle begun as a strategic move. WCB produces cheese sold under brands owned by Kirin's Australian dairy arm Lion.