US private equity group Steel Partners has upped its bid for Japan's Bull-Dog Sauce, as the battle for the company continues.

Steel Partners today (15 June) increased its offer to JPY1,700 (US$13.77) a share in Bull-Dog, valuing the company at around US$260m.

The move comes as Bull-Dog continues to fight what it believes to be a hostile takeover bid from the hedge fund. Bull-Dog plans to issue new shares to all its shareholders except Steel Partners, which is the company's largest shareholder with a 10.5% stake.

Steel Partners has launched legal action in an attempt to scupper Bull-Dog's plan, which it believes will block shareholders from accepting its offer. The private equity group believes Bull-Dog's management is not fulfilling its fiduciary duties to shareholders.

Earlier this week, Steel Partners met with Bull-Dog executives, including the company's president Shoko Ikeda. Steel Partners claims that Ikeda dismissed its original offer of JPY1,584 a share as not reflecting the value of the company. When the hedge fund asked what would be a fair price, it claims Ikeda said: "Price does not matter."

Warren Lichtenstein, manager of Steel Partners Japan Strategic Fund, through which the US hedge fund is tabling its bid, said: "While we did not expect that Bull-Dog would immediately embrace our offer, we expected that the board, in carrying out its fiduciary duties to the company's shareholders, would extend to us a measure of good faith and respect."

Lichtenstein added: "Instead, the company's board has misconstrued our intentions and now seeks to employ methods aimed to thwart our tender offer. We believe that their methods will materially harm the company's value and question why the board is using company assets - that could otherwise be used for the company's growth - to oppose a bid by a supportive, long-term shareholder to acquire more shares in the company."

Steel Partners' increased offer, Lichtenstein insisted, "demonstrates our commitment to Bull-Dog". He said: "Bull-Dog Sauce will benefit from having a single, supportive investor that is prepared to offer expertise and global resources to help the company grow and prosper."