New Zealand-based dairy and infant formula business A2 Milk Co. has been reported to be interested in buying assets from Australian co-op Murray Goulburn.

The Australian newspaper yesterday (6 September) claimed A2 Milk had hired Goldman Sachs to advise the business on its options in what is being suggested could be a competitive race for all or part of Murray Goulburn, the owner of the Devondale milk brand.

The newspaper said A2 Milk may look to be a member of a consortium to bid for Murray Goulburn assets.

Officials at A2 Milk had not returned a request for comment when approached by just-food.

Two weeks ago, Murray Goulburn revealed it had attracted interest from unnamed parties considering buying part or all of the embattled dairy group.

The company disclosed the approaches alongside the publication of its annual results, which included lower sales and an annual loss of more than AUD370.8m (US$297.1m).

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Yesterday, The Australian Financial Review claimed Goodman Fielder – owned by Singapore agribusiness giant Wilmar International and investment vehicle First Pacific – was weighing up whether to make a move for Murray Goulburn’s assets.

The publication said several parties had signed confidentiality agreements. The newspaper described Bega Cheese and Lactalis-controlled Italian dairy group Parmalat as being “keen” to consider the sale documents.

The Australian newspaper said Parmalat was thought to be looking to buy Murray Goulburn in its entirety. It added Fonterra was believed to be ready to table an offer by the deadline for bids, which is reported to be 15 September.

In June, Murray Goulburn, trying to rebound from a problematic 2016, launched a “comprehensive” review it said would look at “all aspects” of its strategy and corporate structure. The move followed a previous review of the group’s manufacturing network, which resulted in plans to close three facilities.

The co-op said a fortnight ago it had been contacted with “indicative proposals from third parties” since embarking on the broader review.