WCB board has backed Saputo throughout takeover battle

WCB board has backed Saputo throughout takeover battle

Saputo has upped the stakes in the battle to buy Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory, with a pledge to increase its offer again if it secures over half of the Australian dairy firm.

The Canadian giant, locked in a three-way tussle for WCB with Australian groups Bega Cheese and Murray Goulburn, said today (25 November) it will increase its bid to A$9.20 a share - should it attain more than 50% of the business.

Two weeks ago, Saputo made its third offer for WCB following revised bids from its two rivals. The company bid A$9 a share for WCB, the same as Murray Goulburn had tabled days earlier.

Saputo, however, claimed its bid was "superior" to Murray Goulburn's offer, pointing to conditions attached to it. The company had made its A$9-a-share offer unconditional and said Murray Goulburn's need for approval from Australian competition regulators made its rival's bid "uncertain".

Nevertheless, Saputo has returned to the table to try to win over WCB investors with a promise it will sweeten its offer.

The A$9.20-a-share bid will no longer include WCB's plans to pay special dividends to its shareholders. WCB, which has backed Saputo throughout the takeover battle, had planned to pay out the dividends if the Canadian company reached certain thresholds of ownership. The dividends would be deducted from the A$9 a share offer. WCB said it no longer intended to pay the dividends.

WCB reaffirmed its support for Saputo's bid and said each of its directors and executives planned to accept the offer in the absence of a "superior proposal".

The WCB board also "unanimously rejected" the Murray Goulburn and Bega Cheese bids.

Saputo's offer closes on 13 December. WCB's share roster includes its two rivals. Murray Goulburn and Bega Cheese each own around 18% of WCB. Japanese food and drink giant Kirin Holdings owns just under 10% of the business.