Saputo increases potential holding in Warrnambool Cheese and Butter

ACCEPTANCES of Saputo’s offer for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter (WCB) shares have continued to trickle in, despite the company being unable to process the transactions due to an order of the Takeovers Panel.

The Canadian dairy company yesterday notified the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) that its potential holding had increased from 13.56 to 14.65 per cent of the WCB register.

The increase represents another 614,000 shares.

Saputo is offering WCB shareholders $9 per share, plus an additional 20 cents if it gains a controlling holding of more than 50 per cent. But it can’t process acceptances until the Takeovers Panel has looked into aspects of its offer, raised by rival bidder Murray Goulburn.

Murray Goulburn has a bid of $9.50 per share on the table but is unable to open the offer until it gains clearance from the Australian Competition Tribunal in a case set to be heard in February.

Meanwhile, Bega Cheese has again extended the period of its offer for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter shares.

In a statement to the ASX yesterday, Bega said the offer period would now close at 7pm on December 20.

The company first extended the period of its offer on November 26, pushing the acceptance period out to December 12.

Bega executive chairman Barry Irvin said the move was motivated by Saputo’s offer still being on hold.

“It seemed logical to extend the offer while we are the only company able to proceed with our bid,” Mr Irvin said.

Bega is offering 1.5 Bega shares and $2 cash for each WCB share, an offer worth about $8.60 at the present share price.

Mr Irvin said acceptances were “trickling in” but had not reached a level where an announcement to the ASX was necessary.

n Steve Hynes is a WCB shareholder.

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