Saputo lifts Warrnambool stake

Saputo Inc has increased its shareholding in its takeover target Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory.

Saputo Inc has increased its shareholding in its takeover target Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Ltd to 20.1 per cent, says an ASX sstatement, making the Montreal-based dairy giant the biggest shareholder in the western Victorian dairy producer.

The Canadian company’s $9-a-share takeover offer for Warrnambool is scheduled to close tomorrow at 1900 AEST unless extended. Investment bankers advising Warrnambool, whose board backs Saputo, say it would be unusual for a takeover offer to close without prior warning.

Warrnambool directors including Kay Antony and Bruce Vallance have sold their shares to Saputo, an ASX statement yesterday said. Warrnambool chief executive David Lord has also sold his shares to Saputo.

Saputo is trying to convince Bega Cheese Ltd to sell it an 18.8 per cent Warrnambool holding this week. Such a sale may convince other shareholders, mostly merger arbitrage funds, to also sell their shares to Saputo and could deliver it a majority stake in Warrnambool after a four month-old takeover battle.  

That would end Murray Goulburn Co-operative Ltd’s $9.50-a-share Warrnambool takeover bid as that offer is conditional on the Melbourne-based dairy cooperative getting a 50.1 per cent stake.

Murray Goulburn has a 17.7 per cent stake in Warrnambool while Kirin Holdings Ltd holds 9.99 per cent via its local unit Lion.

Rabobank and Rothschild are advising Saputo. Kidder Williams Ltd is advising Bega and Greenhill & Co is advising Kirin. CIMB is advising Warrnambool.