Saputo increases stake in Australian dairy target to more than 26.4 per cent

MONTREAL – Saputo has bought an even larger ownership stake in Australia’s oldest dairy processor as it moves ahead with a takeover bid.

The Canadian-based cheese and dairy giant says it has purchased another 2.8 million shares in Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, increasing its holding to 26.4 per cent.

Saputo (TSX:SAP) now controls 14.8 million shares of Warrnambool.

The increase comes days after Saputo extended its US$500-million takeover for about two weeks until Jan. 22.

The company has described the bid as its “last and final offer” and said it does not plan to extend its bid past the deadline.

Saputo has offered AU$9.20 per Warrnambool share if it gets a simple majority or AU$9.40 per share if it gets 75 per cent of the total outstanding shares.

The company says it will pay AU$9.60 per share if it gets at least 90 per cent of Warrnambool’s stock.

Rival bidder Murray Goulburn, has offered AU$9.50 per share, conditional on it securing a majority of Warrnambool shares and winning support from the Australian Competition Tribunal. The tribunal is holding hearings on the issue in February.

Goulburn is the company’s third-biggest owner, with 17.7 per cent of Warrnambool’s stock, after both Saputo and Bega Cheese, another Australian company which controls 18.8 per cent of Warrnambool shares.