THE takeover battle for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter (WCB) has been further complicated with Fonterra buying a 6 per cent stake in Bega Cheese.
In a move designed to protect Fonterra's cheese supply, the New Zealand co-operative bought 9.3 million shares on Thursday at $4.95 per share, costing the company $46 million.
Fonterra licences the Bega brand and has a substantial cheese supply contract with the company.
Bega, Murray Goulburn and Canadian-owned Saputo are in a three-way tussle for control of WCB.
Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings said Australia was an important market for Fonterra and the company was committed to increasing its presence.
"There has already been a lot of consolidation activity in the Australian dairy industry. It is important that Fonterra participates and we have confidence in Bega and the strategy it is pursuing," Mr Spierings said.