An acquisition of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory would provide Saputo with a platform to expand further in Asia, the Canadian dairy company’s president and COO Kai Bockmann told just-food.

The proposed A$378m deal has received the backing of the WCB board but is still pending shareholder approval. The offer trumps a cash-and-shares bid for WCB by Australian co-op Bega Cheese. WCB’s board rejected that offer, labelling it “inadequate” and “highly opportunistic”.

Saputo hopes to complete the transaction by the end of this calender year, Bockmann said. Bega, which is a shareholder in WCB, owning 18% of the business, has yet to make any public comment on the Saputo offer.

WCB manufactures a variety of dairy products – including cheese, butter and cream – for the domestic Australian market and exports raw milk to Asia.

“This opens doors for us. It is about the domestic Australain business, but it is also about Asia. The acquisition would provide us with an export platform for Asia,” Bockmann told just-food at Cologne-based trade show Anuga. 

In particular, Saputo is eyeing growth in the key Asian markets of China, Japan and South Korea, he added. 

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Bockmann said that Saputo’s presence in Australia is currently “limited”. The move will strengthen the company’s presence in the highly competitive Australian dairy sector and the company will gain key insights into the market, he suggested.

“We still have a lot to learn [about Australia].”