Saputo extends WCB offer as 'misleading' claim examined

Canadian dairy company Saputo has extended its $9-a-share cash takeover offer for Warrnambool Cheese & Butter as it awaits the Takeovers Panel's ruling on whether it has misled shareholders with its revised bid.

Canadian dairy company Saputo has extended its $9-a-share cash takeover offer for Warrnambool Cheese & Butter as it awaits the Takeovers Panel's ruling on whether it has misled shareholders with its revised bid.

Saputo is locked in a $500million-plus takeover battle for control of WCB with Australia's biggest dairy exporter Murray Goulburn Co-Operative and NSW-based Bega Cheese.

Saputo has been barred from processing acceptances for its offer after Murray Goulburn made a claim to the Takeovers Panel that the Montreal-based group had contravened the truth-in-takeovers provision.

The claim centres around the withdrawal of two fully franked dividend payments to shareholders from WCB in Saputo's latest bid.

Murray Goulburn claims Saputo's offer is worth $9.56 for some shareholders with the tax benefits of franking and Saputo may be compelled to raise its bid to $9.56.

Saputo's revised bid, which was extended to December 20 on Friday, is unconditional at $9 a share in cash, plus an additional 20ยข a share if it gets to 50.1 per cent of WCB.

Despite the ban on processing acceptances and paying shareholders, Saputo's relevant interest in WCB continues to rise.

According to filings lodged on Friday morning, Saputo's interest has jumped from 14.7 per cent to 15.7 per cent of WCB.

If the Takeover Panel lifts its interim orders, those new acceptances can be formalised and processed.

The Takeover Panel is expected to make a decision on the claim within the next few days.

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